I also encourage them to ask questions; where in England am I from? What’s it like over there? What is the weather like? Do we eat similar foods? What are the schools like over there? What do I think of the current situation vis-a-vis the ongoing problems facing the country following Brexit? etc. etc.
I also encourage them to ask questions regarding the language and how to ask questions, directions, what the days of the week are, general conversational matters and so on and so forth.
With that in mind, here are – in no particular order – the top ten questions I get asked:
‘How do you say ‘Bottom’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘Fart’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘*INSERT SLANG TERM FOR A PENIS HERE*’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘Poo’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘Boobs’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘Burp’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘You smell’ in English?’ (this one made me sniff my own armpits)
‘How do you say ‘*INSERT SLANG TERM FOR A VAGINA HERE*’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘*INSERT ANOTHER PUPIL’S NAME* smells’ in English?’
‘How do you say ‘I don’t want a bath’ in English?’
Well, that’s the problem when you work with kids between the ages of seven and eleven – you might have lofty ambitions about what you want to achieve, but they’ll bring you back down to earth very, very quickly.
I’m currently working in a campsite here in a very, very hot and sunny France.
Today I had the pleasure of helping out a young Norwegian family.
They came in, looking very flustered, telling me that they needed to to see a doctor, as their eldest daughter – who was the grand old age of two – had a rash that was spreading, and they wanted to take action before it got any worse. I ran a search on the internet, printed out a list of local doctors, and gave them all the relevant info.
“Ah….. yes…..” the mother of the family said, looking at me with despair in her eyes: “But although we speak English – we don’t speak any French”.
Luckily for them however, I’ve been living here a while, so I thought I might be up to the task. Nothing ventured nothing gained, eh?
I rang up the doctor. He answered. He clearly wasn’t a natural-born Francophone.
So here we were. A Norwegian family who didn’t speak French. An Englishman who didn’t speak French well. And a doctor from parts unknown.
Thankfully it all worked out and they managed to get an appointment for just a couple of hours later.
They will let me know if everything is ok with their little one as soon as they can.
Me? I’m just happy that my language skills are better than I expected. Or maybe it’s one of those extreme pressure-type situations, where your brain works at a higher rate than normal.
Now if I could only figure out how to make it work like that all the time…..
I make my daughter her ‘quatre heure’ – or after-school snack – each day. This involves fruit, a drink and two small slices of toast, one with butter one with organic chocolate spread. I got bored one day and, with the aid of a pair of scissors, cut the pieces into heart shapes for her. She liked that. She liked that so much that she then refused to eat it unless I cut it into heart shapes for her each time.
Then I got bored of cutting heart shapes and tried my hand at other ‘designs’. They won’t win any art prizes, but she likes them and it’s quite fun for both of us. These are all first time efforts as I’m still ‘honing my craft’ but I will upload more photos one day when I think they are worth sharing. So here we have: Heart and the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, Pacman chasing a ghost (I realise for accuracy the ghost should really be blue, but I try not to feed my daughter blue things) and Jaws chasing a school of fish.
I’ve just repainted the bathroom floor downstairs, I know we are only two days into lockdown MK2, but I just can’t stop myself from painting things. Basically if it stays still for more than five minutes, it’s getting painted.
Thank god we don’t own a dog.
So the floor’s been painted, my son comes ambling up to me and asks me if he can use it. I check it out, it’s OK, but still a bit wet at the sides of the toilet.
I tell him he can use the bathroom, but to be careful of the aforementioned sides.
‘Oh you can trust me’ he replies ‘I don’t go on the sides of the toilet, I just pee on them’.
So, in case anyone is wondering why I repainted the floor, there’s your answer…
Check your food levels in the pantry. Put all your plans to one side. Stock up on toilet rolls and pasta. Make sure you’ve got enough ink in the printer for the attestation forms. Buy some extra baggy pants to slob about in.
And most importantly – buy lots and lots and lots of alcohol.
Yes folks, the day that we dreaded, the day that we hoped and prayed would not come, has arrived. With all the inevitability of a clock striking midnight, France has gone into (almost) total lockdown again.
Who’s to blame? The young? The old? The BLM protesters? The illuminati? I don’t know, personally I think people are equally to blame for this situation. Because people cannot stop touching each other, and seeing each other, and breaking the rules. Because people are like that. We aren’t – despite what many people on social media would have you believe – sheep. So we can’t be herded and ordered about – EVEN WHEN IT’S IN OUR OWN BEST INTERESTS.
And we love to touch each other. Oh how we love to touch each other! It’s OK if I just nip over the road to drop this off with my friend, that’s not contagious. It’s OK if I just touch this parcel and accept it from this delivery man, it can’t spread like that. It’s OK if I wear a mask, meet a group of friends, take off my mask, exchange a kiss and then put the mask back on – the mask is back on, I’m safe now, see?
This whole situation, as I’ve watched it unfold from my small town in France, has very much reminded me of someone trying to stop a dam from bursting it’s banks. Once you got the first hole filled with your finger, another hole appears, so you fill that with you finger – then another hole appears and so on. Every plan that the government puts in place to stop it is immediately cancelled out by the actions of the many, many idiots in our neighbourhoods. The ones who don’t move out of your way, the ones who stand too close to you in the supermarket, the ones who laugh and refuse to wear a mask because ‘It’s all part of some big government plan’.
Governments – as a rule – can not find their arse in the dark with both hands and a torch (See Brexit), so quite how they would go about coordinating a global-pandemic is beyond me.
It’s like Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park ‘Life finds a way’. Yes, it does find a way. A way to fuck the world up with its stupidity – because we are our own worst enemy, and Corona’s best friend.
So that’s my rant over with, now it’s off for four weeks (at the minimum) of playing games, watching films, keeping my kids entertained, and trying to find something to paint that I didn’t already paint twice during the last lockdown.
But hey, there is a brightside to this: the kids are still able to go to school.
We have plenty of alcohol and toilet rolls in the house.
Took the kids swimming yesterday. When we’d finished, and got out to get changed, I went and retrieved our clothing from the locker. The nice reception lady was in there, cleaning the floors. I had so many items of clothing I had to put my glasses in my mouth.
‘The locker’s so full it’s going to explode’ I mumbled with a mouthful of spectacles ‘Like a suitcase before you go on holiday’ I added. She laughed and agreed with me. Then I took my glasses out of my mouth and said ‘I think I speak better French with them in my mouth’.
I’m back at school now, teaching the kids – not MY kids, although they are there, I mean the kids in general. This return has been a long time coming, thanks to that ever-present virus, and to be honest with you I wasn’t sure if I’d be going back at all.
Just to recap/fill you in – I’m an assistant at my local school and I teach the kids English – quelle surprise – teaching is maybe a bit grand as it’s more of a mixture between entertaining and teaching, but I do my best and we all usually have a laugh. I take the kids on before and after their dinner hour, the bigger kids first then the the little ones. So I get load of distracted, hungry big kids and then a load of full, lethargic little kids.
Most of the time.
I’m up against it though in terms of popularity, as my fellow ‘animateurs’ – as we are called here – are all French and so offer a variety of exciting activities liked painting Pokemon, creating little purses, crafting cuddly donkeys and one activity that simply involves going in the ‘room of fun’. So put that up against ‘English class’ and it’s not really a surprise that I’m usually the last girl at the dance. The other animateurs have queues for their activities, me? I have to get the security ladies to make them come along.
That only applies to the bigger kids though – the little kids are more than happy to come along and find my accent fascinating. Strange how kids can change in a year from all happy, eager smiles to grumpy and ‘cool’. Too cool for English anyway.
So yes I’m back but it’s a very different landscape to the one I was forced to leave due to being furloughed following the Corona outbreak (part one?). Now all the kids are regimented, separated into classes, kept apart and generally monitored to ensure they don’t interact with other groups too much.
Like a kind of health-conscious segregation.
It’s masks on all the time for me as well, which makes it so much easier for the kids to understand me.
There also seems to be a lot less kids in general, I don’t know if they are hiding away or if some parents have simply opted, in the current ‘climate of fear’ to go the home-schooling route. I used to be that you would have to fight your way across the school playground, fighting through the crowds with all the speed of a salmon swimming upstream, dodging running kids, footballs, hats, you name it. Now you can just stroll right through them, like their fun-factor has been drained away.
Children that did not keep up with their studies during this current crisis have suffered the worst though. There was the confinement period, which was followed by a brief return to school, which was then followed by the eight week holidays. Some parents have not helped their children maintain their education levels, and never returned – albeit briefly – when they could. As a result of this some children are having to repeat the year, or have even been relegated into lower-level classes. It’s not great to see – potential like that, squandered.
Still, my kids are there too and it’s really great to be able to see them in this environment. I often arrive early and so get the privilege of being able to watch my children play with their friends, unaware that I am watching them – the office has mirrored doors and windows. I look at it as a kind of aquarium, just one for kids.
They can be my bridge for the other children too, when a concept is too difficult for me to explain, or I simply don’t know the words, bilingual kids come in very handy, especially when they are your own. Just don’t rely on them in crucial situations like at the bank or when asking directions as they have a tendency to shut down in times of real need.
So yes, I’m back, for how long I don’t know, and I’m not saying that as a reflection of my abilities, more of the ever present threat Covid 19 poses. The landscape at school has changed, but whether these measures will be sufficient? Time will tell….
This really is a blog post about something and nothing. More of a gentle, mental nudge for me to remember something when I’m older.
But it’s one of those things that I don’t want to forget as I find it very, very sweet and endearing.
My daughter and I have gotten a little bit hooked on Kellogg’s Coco Pops. It happened quite by accident. We were out of our usual cereal for a while and, as the kids and I eat the same one, I decided to try an old favourite that was more readily available here in France: the aforementioned Coco Pops.
However my daughter being the gourmand that she is, she immediately wanted to try them (she’ll try absolutely anything that one).
She loved them of course.
However as she is now pretty much French she seems to struggle with the name, instead of referring to them correctly, she instead calls them ‘Popo Cops’. I love this. Her mum tried correcting her but I asked her not to as I find it so cute. A little bit of a throwback to years gone by, when they were toddlers and were trying to wrap their tongues around new words and strange, cute distortions would come out instead.
I would try her on Golden Grahams next and see what she referred to them as. Except she’s already tried them.
This is actually what out fire-pit looks like, albeit a tad rustier now.
I like to burn stuff. There. I’ve said it. And now that I’ve said it I’d probably better explain myself lest you think you are reading True Confessions Of A Pyromaniac, and not some blog by some bloke in France with a couple of kids.
I like to burn household waste when it builds up. And garden waste. And wood. And just stuff that burns. But not buildings or people. See? I’m normal, just like you.
We buy a lot of items for our house as we have only been in it a couple of years and so are still making it ‘ours’. This leads to a build-up of boxes in our outdoor dependences (outbuildings we store all our garden stuff in). We do generally take this to our local decheterie (that’s French for ‘tip’) so they can recycle it. However sometimes I don’t want to do that and instead want to tear it up into little bits and burn it in our fire-pit.
I know, I know. This is not necessarily ‘Option A’ when it comes to caring for the environment, and I doubt Greta Thunberg would approve, but I don’t like her so I don’t care. Put it down to my primal nature and giving into the instincts handed down to me from my ancestors, who would huddle in caves and stay warm by their fires, with one eye on the entrance, fearful of predators.
That plus it’s a drag going to the decheterrie all the time. The French DO NOT do organisation so you’re looking at an hour of ‘fun’ sat in your car while they work out how to get their rubbish out of their cars and into a large metal box.
Anyway, onto the thrust of this blog: I’m not alone in my gleeful burning, my daughter loves it too. Every time I mention that the cardboard pile is getting a bit high her eyes light up, as if she senses what will have to happen. And if I say I’m going to take it all to the tip, she kind of makes a deflated ‘Hooooaauuawwwwww‘ noise and then follows this up with words like ‘Nul‘ (which is French for ‘boring‘) and ‘Boring‘ (which is English for ‘Nul‘).
But If I say I’m going to burn it all she’s right by my side ‘Can I help you?’ she offers sweetly, rubbing her hands in anticipation, knowing I won’t say no. Of course I accept her offer and off we go, breaking the boxes down and – carefully – inserting them into the fire-pit. She is always under my watchful eye, and she is always respectful of the dangers of the fire. There’s no flies on this one.
It’s a lovely little habit we have, and there’s nothing quite like sitting in the garden on a cold evening, leaning back on the bench holding hands and looking up at the stars while the fire gently crackles away. It’s these little moments, these little habits that you have to treasure and hold on to.