Thursday, 30 May 2013

The unbearable lightness of being (the only under-25 on the staff team)




Ow ow.

Ow ow ow.

Ow ow ow ow ow.

When I used lightness in the title, I probably should have used another word. Agony, perhaps. The fact is that I am absolutely not as fit as I used to be, and apparently running around for three hours is now just about enough to kill me. This is kind of disappointing, but it's a sign that I now absolutely have to crack on with some gym time. When I'm home. Obviously.

Touch rugby, football, human table football (don't ask) and sumo wrestling made up my afternoon, and feeling sore and drinking soup rounded out the evening. The morning was given over to some very disappointing news. While the news was terrible, it gave me time to work on some other projects, and takes a weight off my shoulders one way or another.

I'd love to write more but I need to stretch, crawl into bed, and try to avoid getting up tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

New tricks, old cats, and keys. And this damned tooth.

Parents arrive in four and a half weeks. I leave three and a half weeks after that.

This is not making me happy at all.

Still, following Third Year Abroad on Twitter is giving me just a little glee in a sort of schadenfreude way, as I watch my fellow year abroaders try to pretend that the unhappy day has arrived and they have to go back to Blighty. I'm still here, just, and the desire to return gets stronger every day. I can definitely see myself coming back for a Master's, especially if the UK continues to raise the price of Higher Education. In any case, you're not interested in my musings on my future. You want my day. Here you are then.

My wisdom is increasing, and now my teeth feel very strange - as though they no longer fit together correctly. I strongly suspect that this is going to require some minor surgery, which is a deeply unhappy prospect, so if it comes to that wish me luck and hope that I come out of surgery only missing the teeth I don't need. Ultimate test of French right there.

My morning was interesting; a translation and an update to a couple of things. Nothing too taxing, but it was quite enjoyable and I was given free rein to give the text a little more bounce that it got from the straight translation. At lunch I tried out a new trick I've been working on and I'm very pleased with the way it turned out; only one major error and it was brushed aside as "nobody's perfect." I believe, looking back, that if I'd pulled it off flawlessly it would somehow have been less impressive.

Back to the office for the afternoon and more translation as well as a brainstorming session with my colleague in the Association. She wants to do a video do, and has some really interesting ideas that hopefully I'll be able to realise. So far I'm confident, but she might come in tomorrow with something completely hare-brained.

This evening I went to see C, my Monday night student. She's going away this weekend, and last week she mentioned how frustrating it was that people charged her 60€ to look after her cat. Since her going away would mean no lesson (and thus no cash) I immediately stepped forward and offered to do it for half price. The deal was struck, and so today I went over and was shown how the microwave oven, coffee machine, and WiFi work. That's all a chap needs, really, so although I shall be twenty minutes from work (instead of thirty seconds) I'm rather looking forward to a morning commute. I shall be able to stagger into the office and complain about the traffic, it'll be awfully fun.

After showing me round we had sashimi and a glass of wine. I still can't like sashimi. I'm not a fan of raw fish at all. Fried, steamed, poached, roasted but cold - yeuch. Sling it on the fire.

Finally home, to find eating an apple is surprisingly painful. It's going to have to be M. Le Dentiste, isn't it. Yikes.

Have you had any French dentistry experience? How was it? How expensive was it? Please help out with any knowledge you've got.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


There are a lot of things I want to talk about today.

Firstly iTunes put up the most recent episode of Doctor Who at long last, which meant I could break my embargo on reading about the finale and I could watch it. I wait for iTunes because no other company is able to allow me to watch British television series but I love them. So I wait and then I pay, but I really wish I didn't have to wait so long. My first world problems are beyond compare.

So John Hurt. That's going to make for some interesting writing. Other than that, I found it weak, the CGI almost painful, the character development sloppy, the villain poor, and Richard E. Grant delicious as always.

Who aside, I've had a glorious, glorious day. The weather started hideous, rain absolutely sluicing down the windows, but the work was interesting. I had to apply some serious lateral thinking to work out how to divide up 17,000 bits of data with weird criteria. Excellent fun though, and after that I moved onto planning challenges for next year's students. Mmmm, logic puzzles, cryptic clues, jigsaws...these are some of my favourite things.

Progress is being made on the video project and on the secret project, except of course now that's given birth to another secret project. My secret projects are multiplying, and I'm enjoying the struggle of trying to keep track of them all.

I rewrote some formulas in the huge-massive-student-profile thingy to automate some bits and pieces; with any luck I'll be able to hide the machinery of it and present them with a thing that updates automatically, which should make life easier for everyone involved. I hope.

In the afternoon I discussed plans with my supervisor, and she's going to try to get some money so I don't have to build everything myself. Hooray! I was also one of two students in a French lesson where I had to read out loud, something which I normally enjoy but today did not. The reason: I have got wiser by about half a tooth and wisdom, it seems, hurts like you wouldn't believe. Still, it was a good lesson, and I've now got a new French television series to watch.

All I need to do is find somewhere other than iTunes to watch it...

Monday, 27 May 2013

Some Mondays are just better than others.

Putting aside for a moment that I am still yet to see L'importance d'être serieux today has been a fantastic day. I've been working hard all day, on posters, on translations, on storyboards - little morsels of work that kept me ticking over all day. I also had a student in at lunchtime who's an absolute joy; a rapacious reader who decided she'd try A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, despite English being her second language. Russians are hardcore physically and mentally, it seems.

I also went to see my Monday night student early, which means I've eaten and taught and written and made exceedingly good time - which of course is worryingly indicative that I've forgotten to do something. That something currently escapes me, but rest assured it'll wake me up, sweating with fear, at about 3 tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately that's all I've got for you at the moment. I'm working on a couple of other bits and pieces at the moment, which may explain the brevity of the post. I might show you them a little later, if I can, but I suspect it'll be a bit tricky. We'll see.

Thanks for reading as always.

Also, if you ever want some encouragement to work harder at the language you're learning, get a Russian to borrow A Brief History of Time from you. Nothing is more encouraging for a competitive person like me than seeing someone try to bring their second language to bear on that book.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Le Trône de Fer

The Iron Throne is my latest bit of reading material, except it's in French and could theoretically be used to batter someone to death. Picture below with UK and European currency for comparison, because I'm both culturally diverse and staggeringly wealthy.

Right: Pound coin. Left: Euro coin.

This morning was a glorious morning. It was a morning that should be written about in song, because this morning I lay in bed until 10am. I know, it's vile and disgusting, but I just needed it. I've not had a chance to laze about in bed for far too long. So this morning I made la grasse matinée and was generally hideous. I went for a gorgeous stroll around lunchtime, because there is a glorious little park not five minutes from where I live. 

There's nothing more wonderful than a park in the sunshine, with children laughing and playing nearby and the freedom to stroll anywhere and absorb the sun. Glorious. When I come to do a Master's, I have to choose between the land of opportunity, the US (for which I shall need to first win the lottery, and then gamble it on a 100-1 bet) and here in France, where it will cost me tuppence ha'penny and where I shall be closer to my family than I would otherwise be. But American. But family. 

I'm lucky I've another two years to think about this.

My afternoon was given over to tutoring A, who once again is speeding through his work. Speeding a little too much, actually; in English a missing article only rarely changes the meaning of a phrase. In Maths, missing a negative sign or a single digit will result in utterly the wrong answer, but short of drugging him (girlfriend's suggestion) I can't figure out how to slow him down.

The buses stop running on Sunday's two minutes after 7 o'clock, which meant a walk home - but a walk home in balmy sun, with just enough breeze to keep a fellow cool. I walked with my nose in the adventures of the Iron Throne and didn't get run over at all, which is something of a success. And I picked up an ice lolly on the way home.

Today has been, unequivocally, a Good Day.

Tune in tomorrow to see how it (predictably) goes all wahoonie shaped.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Countdowns are beginning

Things are constantly in motion. You are in motion at the moment, spinning on a planet that's spinning around a star that spinning in a galaxy and that's the kind of thing that make a person nervous.

This might go some way to explaining why I'm feeling a little stretched out at the moment, like I know the finish line is coming up but I can't see it yet. I don't think it's helping that the people around me are making ready to leave. My whole world currently feels like half past four on a Friday afternoon back in school, when you could feel the tension in the room. The clock would actually start to melt a little from the intensity of the gazes of the students. The energy in the room would be palpable, nervous energy wound tight and expressing itself in little scraping noises as students started preemptively pushing their chairs back.

I miss school, actually, which was why it was weird to see tweets from the school that took me in for my Sixth Form studies. The teachers haven't changed. The buildings are the same, even the ones that went up in 1965 "temporarily". They're still there. I rather suspect that if I'm not careful, my career will be like those buildings - falling into something "temporarily" and then staying there for fifty years before collapsing on someone and being condemned and retired.

That metaphor got away from me a little.

I spoke to my French tutor back in Aberdeen today, just to ask when we'll get marks back for our essays. The response I got was a sort of sighing acceptance that being in chilled out France had not rubbed off on me too much, and that they'd be marked when they were marked. Fair enough. Facebook updates and tweets from people at uni, the possibility of working with incredible people at the Gaudie, in Centre Stage, in AUSA - all of these things are driving me crazy with excitement but once again it's the finishing line I can't quite see. I'm getting into Limbo, neither Here nor There, but I'll be out soon enough.

I've booked - I say booked, I mean tried to book - tickets for +Derren Brown in August, but the wicked website isn't taking my money. I'd normally be pleased, but I like Derren. I went to his Svengali tour, and that freaked the bejeesus out of me before I even got there, because he engaged with me on Twitter. And I'm kind of a fangirl for this guy. I know, you're surprised, but the man can convince people to take payment in paper. Not paper money, actual paper. Check it out below.

Absolutely worth a watch.

In addition I've got some storyboards done - stickmen ahoy - and doodled some experimental dialogue. I'm really rather liking this malarkey, and I think I'm going to bash together a video about memory, taken from the book of the illusionist above. We'll see. It'll keep my mind off the finishing line for a while, in any case.

The students have all been warned about the test on Tuesday, which prompted some of them to come in and ask in French if they could have some practise material to take on a coach to Amsterdam where they're definitely going to study it. I said sure; it's only photocopied material and to be quite honest at this point getting totally stoned and trying to absorb the knowledge by eating the paper is about the only hope these kids have got.

I found out how to solve cryptic crossword clues, and while I am still as far from being able to solve them as Pluto is from being recognised as a planet, it feels good to know there's a system. I also learned that the Independent's quick crossword is a lot easier than the Guardian's. It was a bit of a slow day.

In recognition of this fact, the Internet threw all the distractions it could at me, including three charming internships and a job, all of which I want, all of which I absolutely must not take. To see why not, please see above for the metaphor.

I also learned - and this will be important for literally none of you, and yet I tell you anyway because I met the man and he's awesome - that +Stephen Waddington got elected President of the CIPR. Congratulations to that man. Johnny Walker black label on the rocks for everyone.

Finally, more teaching. Pushed C into the preterite (pronunciation of which is, for some reason, utterly beyond me) and she's swimming like a trooper, though every time I correct her because the verb she's using doesn't just take -ed but instead changes either:

  • vowel 
  • spelling
  • pronunciation (read/read)
  • some combination of the above
she looks so disapproving I cannot help but laugh. She scowls a bit more at that. B, on the other hand, has made huge leaps with his written work, which at the beginning was incredibly ambitious and utterly awful, and is now ambitious in line with his ability and has only small errors. And that makes me quite unnaturally happy.

Teaching. Might be something I'm actually good at.

Alright folks. Winding up here as I'm back to obscenely verbose blogs. Have a good weekend; I'm going to see a French translation of The Importance of being Earnest, because it's one of my favourite plays. Very excited. If it's brilliant I'll be dragging students back with me to see it and of course I'll be writing about it here.

Oh - and it looks like the slow route of invasion has beaten the quick route. The front page of Libération on Tuesday:

Apparently they're taking lessons from Cole Porter. You get points if you're on the Internet
and know who Cole Porter is. And aren't Sheila, because that's an unfair advantage.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Never have I ever...

Felt so totally old. Couldn't sleep last night, so lay awake reading. Lay awake reading, in fact, until about 4am. This is something that two years ago I'd not have thought twice about, except it would've been a particularly tricky Assassin's Creed mission or just one more episode of the original House of Cards (although the new one, by +Netflix, is still incredibly good).

In any case. I'm feeling old now because in the old days I'd do that, leap out of bed at 8 and do a full day of uni and a night in Exo too. Now it's half past ten and I'd like a nice cup of tea and my bed, please.

My presentation this morning seemed to go down well. I got a few laughs here and there and my video on mind-mapping was well-received, though the idea of me being around after I leave is a bit weird. In any case, it's great to have that done with, and be moving onto new projects.

More students came looking for revision materials because there are exactly five days to the next test, and that is when you should start revising for tests. Five days before.

And that's about it for today! The French lesson was odd, all about the bourgeoisie, but agreeable enough. We worked on superlatives and comparatives, which was - well, it was easy, but I got to teach my classmates a little and that was fun.

I wish I could give you more folks, but it's been a boring old day. I'll try harder tomorrow, and that starts with some serious sleep.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Presentation is key

Well, I got reminded this morning of something I'd agreed to after three cups of champagne, and that something was a ten minute presentation that I will be giving tomorrow. The moral of this cautionary tale is, of course, don't promise to do something having drunk three cups of champagne, because your opinion of your own French will be considerably higher than it really merits.

I got a haircut. Want to give me your opinion? Try me on G+ or Twitter
Nonetheless I am a man of my word, and so this evening I offer an early blog and a picture to make up for the normal wordiness while I write my presentation about a piece of software that may well help teachers to better connect with their students.

So: today was made of sorting data in Excel, writing storyboards, seeing students, checking CVs, and translating an email. My storyboards are coming along, insofarasmuch as storyboards made of stick figures with speech bubbles of too much text constitute a storyboard. (Do they? I have literally no experience in this field.)

That's been about my day. The coffee machine is not working any more, and I need way more caffeine than I'm currently getting. I've said it about a hundred and one times, but the only thing I'm looking forward to in Aberdeen is getting myself a coffee machine and having at least three coffees a day for pennies.

Addict? Where?

Update: just before posting I looked into the mirror and grinned, and my dad grinned back at me out of it. Genuinely unsettled. For comparison my dad is below.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I have not blogged for four days. This is the longest I've not blogged for since I started, and it feels weird not to be able to fill up what I am certain you are hoping will be hours of your life with words, but the fact is that of these past few days, half have been exceedingly boring and the other half I've spent with my girlfriend, and that's about as much detail as you're going to get regarding that.

I have been writing essays and storyboards, which are slowly coming together, and reading a book I picked up  on impulse in Relay and finding to my enormous gratification that I can actually read it. It's entitled Prisoners' dilemmas and dominant strategies: Game theory, and it's a pretty brilliant read. If you're interested in game theory (and why wouldn't you be?), read the following explanation and then watch the video. You may well learn something.

The video below shows the final round of a UK TV show called Goldenballs, in which contestants do their best to lie to each other to get to this point. At this point, a sum of money is up for grabs, but there's a catch - the players must decide how to split it. Sort of.

Each player has a choice of two balls; Steal or Split. The scenarios play out in the following way:

  1. Both players choose Split. The money is split between the players fifty-fifty. Everyone goes home happy.
  2. One player chooses Split and one chooses Steal. The player who chose steal walks away with everything; the player who didn't doesn't get anything.
  3. Both players choose Steal. Nobody gets anything.

The players, as you'll see below, are given 1 minute to convince the other to choose Split, because that's obviously the most beneficial choice for your opponent to make. Once you've convinced him/her to choose Split, you can then choose Steal and walk away with all the cash.

Of course they're trying to do the same to you. So the pair of you are doing your best to manoeuvre around each other, convincing the other with weasel words and trying not to give away the fact that you're definitely going to choose Steal. This happened a lot, and a lot of people walked away with nothing.

In essence, the question is this: How do you force someone to choose Split, even when they know it's in their best interests to choose Steal?

Like this: (zoom to 2:19 for the start of the tactic)

If you're not impressed with that, game theory's not for you, but in my opinion that's some seriously clever strategy.

Not much else is new; I'm actually starting to pack things away again, but books are hard to keep in boxes - they should be on shelves or, as they are with me, in stacks on the desk. I'm confident about getting a job next year, having spoken to some old pals in the bar trade at home, and decent looking flats roll into my inbox every week or so - so again, some of the stress has gone from there. 

My essay, too, is done and dusted, so I'm suddenly without stress and, without any sense of irony, it's stressing me out. I'm sure I'll come up with something to do before long.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Meeting and storyboards

That was the theme for today: meetings and storyboards. And essay writing. Third year abroaders, if you need to do an essay/project, do it early. Find something in the town in which you live and write the heck out of it. Make like I did and blog every day except instead of just talking about nonsense, try to frame at least three posts a week around a theme. That way, when it comes to writing it, you'll have material.

Rather than making like I did and learning the entire French political system in fifteen evenings after coming home from a day of work. It's not conducive to good essay writing.

So: this morning was sent polishing the aforementioned essay and then starting to storyboard Project#1, which will be several videos of no longer than 5-6 seconds. I'm actually considering filming them with Vine, and trying to get students sharing them. It might be a long shot, considering the subject material, but it's going to be quite light-hearted. There's also a larger video, and I'm going to need volunteers for that. If you're a student of mine and you're reading this, come and see me in the médiathèque on Tuesday. I'll bribe you with food. Probably.

I've also got Project#2 to be thinking about, although it's a little easier - ice breaking exercises for next year. I've got a few ideas, but if you know any, I'd really love to hear from you - you can contact me all over the net from the home page. So far I've got - ah, but I shan't say. Let's keep it on the down low for now.

Project#3, which I got given yesterday, should be quite fun. That will require more storyboarding but also working with some older gentlemen who are a little...set in their ways, shall we say. Still, they've got incredible presence - comes of being massively experienced in one's field, I suppose - and if I can channel that then I think we'll be home and safe.

Lunch was solo, and thus a little depressing, though I got some thinking done - I was offered an internship in August after I bought tickets to go and see my girlfriend in Chicago. The internship would have been an incredible opportunity, but also only part-time - but then I could do bar work part-time to make up the hours, but then I wouldn't see Mary - the thoughts had been circulating like this for a little while, but I got an email today which seemed to suggest I'd be able to pick up the thread of the conversation I was in with my potential boss when I got back. I really hope so; this could be a massive opportunity, and theoretically even a part-time remote-working job while I'm at uni. Turns out that being massively passionate and knowing what your potential boss is looking for is a massive bonus when asking for internships. In any case, it's good knowing that I can put that thought to bed and fully enjoy the States.

In the afternoon I had to do a more unpleasant part of my job, which is to break down a CV that a student's spent considerable time on and essentially tell them they need to rework it completely. I try to be as jocular and fun as possible, but there's always a moment when they realise I'm not going to stop until I reach the end, and I feel horrible every time.

On the other hand, the student seemed pleased, and he's got a good idea of where his CV needs to go next, so I'm both hopeful and pleased for him. Immediately after that I had a meeting with my Project#1 team, who assured me they'd get (get or bully, I'm not sure about the word I heard) students to volunteer for acting with me. We also went over my storyboards and had several really fruitful discussions. I think one idea may have to be vetoed, but it wasn't my favourite so I can live with it. I'm learning that flexibility is key to almost everything, something I look back on and realise with horror that I never knew before.

Finally a quick look over an Economics thesis (fascinating: if I had my time again I would actually listen in Economics. I'm so sorry Ms Ancrum.) and only a few errors. This is always a delight, in part because it makes my life easier and in part because the students get so frustrated at themselves when I point out "loosed" instead of "lost" and "form" instead of "from."

(I'm checking this blog right now for that last error.)

Finally, teaching, where C has sprained her foot, making it three injuries in three weeks. It also allowed us to revise body parts and how to communicate where something hurts, and how (sharp? dull? achy? Things that are important to know and I never learn til I dislocated my knee at Disney.). Went over the hero work with B and had an excellent discussion about heroes and villains, and how to construct them in stories - opposite, but not too opposite.

A quick jaunt into Paris to get something for the weekend and home. And blog: typed.

Now to get cleaning. This essay's meant my room's got a little cluttered.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Winding up for the weekend

My English colleague left today, and my French colleague doesn't work on Fridays - so tomorrow looks like it'll be relatively peaceful, at least in the morning. The afternoon, I suspect will be busier, with two meetings and something to re-film - if I have the time. However, that's for tomorrow. For today I've been hard at work preparing for our summer event, and it should be good - I've secured a couple of interesting...things (secrets, for now) to present to everyone who comes. In addition, we've secured a gorgeous location, and since it'll be held in June I have high hopes for excellent weather.

In addition, the planning for next year's Integration Day is already well underway, and I'm playing my part by working on algorithms. It turns out Maths is as useful as French. Who knew? +Aric Gilinsky, probably, but don't let him know I said that. In any case, my supervisor and I have a cunning plan, and next year's students are in for a treat. Several treats, in fact, and a big prize at the end.

I've also almost finished work on my essay about French politics; there were a few errors, but none so grievous that they couldn't easily be fixed. That took several hours out of my afternoon, and wasn't helped by the Arabic culture afternoon. I figured I could be grumpy, or I could join in.

I was grumpy. Essays don't write themselves, more's the pity, and as much as I'd have liked to have joined in, I couldn't. I did the responsible thing. Growing up: it sucks.

The afternoon was given over to my grammar lesson in preparation for the T.F.I, which I felt went really well. There were a couple of exceedingly stupid errors, which I really need to stamp out, but otherwise - pleased. Three weeks until that particular sword stops hanging over my head, and I can't say I'm not looking forward to it.

I've also started looking at courses for next year, and suddenly next year seems uncomfortably close. Weird sensation. Don't like it much.

So in conclusion: don't grow up. Do do Maths.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Three hours in post-edit. Four minutes of video polished. Our star did very well, considering it was his first time.

Sleeping now. I now you expect more from me, and quite frankly I expect more from me too, but look at me.

More vivacious update tomorrow, promise. More French grammar, wahoo!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Doing what I love

Sometimes you just have a day. You know it's going to be a day before you even wake up. Your body tries its best to stop you waking up because it knows, it knows that when you do, it's all going to turn to crap.

This was one of those days, only worse, because my body actually kicked me out of bed before I needed to. I woke up at 6.30, freezing cold, because the heating system in my flat turns itself off at around 5. This has happened three times in three days, and for the life of me I have absolutely no idea why. Ever since I got rid of my duvet, the evil genie that apparently lives in the radiator has decided to knock off at 5am.

I couldn't get warm in bed. I couldn't get back to sleep because I was cold and apparently wide awake, so I had a shower instead and then some coffee. The luxurious pace with which I broke my fast should have told me of the heapings of crap that were soon to land on me, but no. I was lulled, like a fool, into the sense of smug self-security that envelops a chap when he thinks he is ahead of his schedule.

I arrived at work a couple of minutes early, perfumed, fresh, rascally handsome. Today was a full day, but I felt prepared to face it. I was full of nutella and home-brewed coffee. My first task was the pilot light of the deep-sea fish of a day I would shortly encounter. I had to pull up some statistics for my colleague regarding memberships: who's paying, who paid last year but hasn't yet, how many of the new graduates are ponying up the cash…it was a task that she told me I needn't rush, that would take a couple of hours. 

Imagine her surprise, and the smug look on my face - vile, isn't it - when I returned the document to her twenty minutes. It wasn't a magic trick, but it may as well have been from the look on her face - but then, an awful lot of magic is knowing something the other person doesn't know. In this case, it was knowing that all of the characteristics my colleague needed could easily be identified by "IF GREATER THAN" and "IF LESS THAN" formulae.

In any case, with this task completed ahead of schedule, I thought I could relax - but instead, a huge ginger Belgian came roaring into my life. I do mean roaring;  he has a laugh that most of the school can hear. Once his hair goes white I can see him making a pretty penny as a Santa lookalike. It was for this gentleman that I had recorded the Mind-Mapping video, and he was exceedingly happy with it.

Except one part. One little part, that would only take me ten minutes to sort out.

The man knows me. It was only a small thing, and I was confident it would take no more than twenty (he knows me, and that means he knows how to flatter me) so, with time to spare, I agreed to sort it out there and then. I set myself up in my office, sat myself down, and made sure I was handsome. I was. I am.

I started the recording. I opened my mouth.


A chainsaw makes a noise that, if unexpected, is one of the most terrifying in the world. I leaped out of my skin and hung to the ceiling by my fingertips, like a bloody and disgusting Spider-Man. The noise stopped. I crawled down and re-installed myself. Hair a little wild, but otherwise ready to begin again. I took a perfunctory glance out of the window. Nothing.

I started the recording.



And this continued for twenty minutes. Every time I started recording my mysterious tormenter turned his or her chainsaw back on. Every time. If I ever meet the despicable animal who was doing this to me, I'm going to do absolutely nothing because they have a chainsaw. I'm not a total imbecile.

While I was slowly going mad inside the space of my own mind, I got a text - an unknown number. Unknown numbers always make me nervous, because I don't give out my number very much, but it was a woman who wanted to know if I could tutor her son. Sure, I said, when?


I warned her that I'd not be there until around 7.15; she told me it wouldn't be a problem. I hate such short notice, but a job is a job - and, speaking of jobs, it was time to get filming for the second video project of the day. There's a rather large announcement coming up in the next week, but due to various staff/national holidays, we've not had any time to prepare the online release, which will involve a video in Spanish. So that's how we two hours today: recording a three minute speech. How does one spend two hours recording a three minute speech?

Well, we did it by recording it a number of times and struggling with lighting issues, noise issues, and battery life issues. And pronunciation issues. And people-ignoring-signs-and-wandering-in-and-not-leaving issues, which were the absolute worst. In any case, we got it done, and for the next two-and-a-half hours Meyling, Sophie and I pieced together the takes to form a glorious, flowing draft. We had merely to add transitions, credits, and movement. Exhausted, we agreed to reconvene tomorrow at 8am to complete the project.

That completed, I took a whole half an hour to set up meeting the next day and chat to my colleague about work that I needed to take over from her while she jaunts off back to Blighty. Having added her items to my work schedule (and gained a new respect for the woman, she does a lot of work I didn't know about) it was to my French lesson, where I tried not to get irritated by the notion of the "traditional family," which at best is rose-tinted and at worst bigotry masquerading as "but we've always done this."Perhaps I was overreacting, but the one place in France where I've heard people using the phrase "traditional family" most was on the marches to deny the right to a family to homosexual couples. Perhaps I Pavlov'd myself again and I'm reacting to a slight that is unintended. All the same, I wonder how the class would feel if they had to describe the "traditional family" in the terms they reserve for non-"traditional" families: monoparental, recomposed (recomposé) and homosexual families versus "traditional" gives a linguistic bias (in my opinion) to the word we recognise and feel comfortable with."Hetero families" is as clinical a term as "recomposé," so why not use it?

As a result there was a slightly tense moment when I was asked what a family that is composed of a previously married father, a previously married mother, and kids from both previous relationships and the current is called. I said "a family." Because that's what it is. The day she has to say "I'm in a hetero relationship" rather than just "I'm in a relationship" is the day she has the right to label other people's families.

Sorry, that become something of a rant. I'll try to get back to the funny.

Mid-lesson I got a call from Sophie to say that the man at the top of her chain of command didn't like the video and that we'd redo the whole thing tomorrow, in one go. I have to say I'm a little relieved that our early morning meeting has been cancelled, but at the same time the fact that we wasted several hours in post-production was a knife to the kidneys of my soul. In any case, it was time to haul ass out to St. German to meet my new student, H, whose English is quite frustratingly good/bad. What I mean by this is that he has a solid to excellent grip on all English tenses and can use them comfortably and with ease, but then says "childrens" and "mens". Which is heartbreaking.

I finished that lesson at quarter past 8. I took a bus, and wrote most of this blog on the way. Since getting home I've replied to more emails and eaten half a kilo of ravioli, and I'm pretty okay with that.

Tomorrow promises to be just as exciting as today was. Oh - and I found out the name of the person who'll be replacing me. If it's you, and you read the blog, why not send me a message?

In the meantime, here's a sneaky picture from today's shoot. Hip height, so I apologise for the quality. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, 13 May 2013


This is going to be a quick blog and written at near light-speed, because I have just way too much to do. Some people bite off more than they can chew; I appear to have bitten off more than I can feasibly fit in my mouth and have stuffed a bit more in my ears for good measure.

Today I have had meetings with four different members of staff, lunch with another, and left at 6.45. If this is what real life is like, then it's awesome, and I'm not going back to uni. Seriously, how did I fill the time? Assassin's Creed? Halo? Skyrim?

Well...yes. And it's enormously satisfying, and a large part of me would really rather like to go back to lounging around for eight hours and exploring the vast digital worlds laid out before me but this - this is more satisfying still. The project I did last week on mind-mapping is going live in the next few days, and that's something I was given from its conception. I'm not a broody guy, but that thing is my baby, and I love it. In addition, I'm frantically learning as much about iMovie as I possibly can and storyboarding short video clips, for which I'll need a student willing to be soaked to the skin, thrown over someone's shoulder, and theoretically can wasted. Or at least act it.

I still have to get these past my supervisors, but what's amazing is that I'm pretty confident I can sell them.

I'm also on a huge high (and rushing slightly) because my year abroad essay is coming along, slowly but surely, as I do my best to decipher the complexities of the French political system, which is highly devolved and thus as easy to follow as a drawer full of headphone cables.

I also got a very exciting message from my friend Kate, who'd spotted an opportunity she knew I'd be interested in (love that girl, she's far too good to me). I put together a quick email and shot it off to the person in question. Ten minutes later she and I were having a lovely chat, and if I'm very lucky I'll have an enormous project to work on when I get back home towards the end of August. I've a meeting lined up with her as soon as I return, and if I can get the job, I think I'll explode with glee.

In essence it'll involve a total media strategy with special emphasis on social media, my particular favourite. You can tell, can't you, and to prod you with it a bit more if you go to my homepage you'll see all the internet places I am. Send me a tweet or connect with me on G+, if you'd like to know more about me (assuming there's anything left to learn, since I put most everything here.)

Now, at last, I am soaking up the #ausacouncil hashtag on twitter and avidly following the discussion. A group of Tories are trying to argue that we need a "centre-right officer," because Tories are bullied by all the mean lefties and are under-represented at local and national level. It's not like we've got a government that's controlled by the -

Wait, my mistake. You're an idiot.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!

A title there that only my parents, my parent's generation, and the people of my generation whose parents showed them the glories of Dad's Army will get.

The reason that's my title is because the deadline for my year abroad project has suddenly appeared on the horizon, and rather than appearing on the horizon like a lost lamb it has appeared like the ravening hordes of Genghis Khan. I have written the vast majority of it, it's true, but I've been hamstrung at the last minute by the sin of not researching properly. Let me explain.

When writing an essay, what one ought to do is read 10-15 sources and amalgamate their content, referencing at all times - remember, if you copy from one person it's called 'plagiarism'. If you copy from everyone it's called 'research', and only one of those two is allowed. Now I work full time and struggle to find the energy to read 10 sources. However, one source is about enough for me, and so I had read some excellent research on one particular website and had gleefully written it into my essay, with a reference, because the university uses Turnitin and I'm not an idiot. However, for the look of the thing, I tried to find other sources to back up this one. Nothing.

This is a worrying occurrence when a full third of your essay is based on this particular point.

So I tried searching for the law in question and had plenty of hits, all of which were from news sites, and all of which had the word "abrogé" in them - "repealed".

Bloody cocking wank.

The law had been repealed before it had even been made a law. So there went a third of my essay, but it taught me a valuable lesson.

Just as I got that particular bombshell, my Monday student texted me and asked if she could move the lesson to tonight. When, I asked? About now came the reply.

Magnificent. In this day and age of instant connectivity and email programs where you can simply write "Hey, how about 7pm Monday?" and your calendar will freaking add it in automatically I still only get thirty minutes warning. Incredible. I'd put a load of washing on not ten minutes before, too, which meant I had to abandon it to sit in soggy dampness for two hours before I got back from the lesson.


Still, I got back, I've shared innocent's mango and passion fruit smoothie with a Colombian, who says its as good as the ones he drinks at home (where he takes the fruit off the tree outside his window, the lucky man). High praise indeed.

This is what the carton looks like, so you can identify it when you next go shopping. There are six portions of fruit in each carton. Lovely. Plus, they promise never to cheat at Monopoly, and I'm willing to buy anything from a company that can make that sort of commitment.

innocent France. I love you like magnets love iron.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The flea market, where Kate got monkeys (but not fleas)

If anyone knows the root of the phrase "flea market" (and honestly, Sheila, I would be amazed if it's not you) please let me know, because I've never seen a flea in a flea market. Just tons, literally tons, of antique crap. Crap that people once valued highly and is now being sold alongside corkscrews and miscellaneous forks, 4€ for as much as you can fit in a bag.

The flea market was after class with A, who was a little unfocussed today. I've found that if I wait until he thinks he's finished the question, rather than correcting his errors as he makes them, he checks his answers himself and spots the mistakes himself - a far more fruitful learning process. I can imagine those wonderful teachers who read this blog - Hannah, for example - rolling their eyes at the fact that they learnt this years ago, but hey. I'm relatively new to this game.

After work I caught the tiniest bus in the world (seats: 20) to the station, and from the station a speedy little train to Paris where I met the girls at La Madeleine, a gloriously imposing church in the 8th. Mary had just thrown down 240€ on perfume for a friend of her mother's while wearing skinny jeans and the most broken down converse you've ever seen. I would have paid good money to see the shop assistant's face when this girl asked for a frighteningly expensive perfume. I would have laughed and laughed, if flies could laugh. As it was, we made our introductions, and at one point Kate put the bag on my head. It smelt of roses and paper, if you were interested, but if that's what 240€ smells like I'll just take the cash and sniff it.

On arrival all three of us were feeling a little hunger and we set off in search of some grub. As we were walking, I spotted an interesting storefront: Chick-can. Intriguing. On closer inspection, the food sounded great - a quarter roast chicken plus two hot sides for 12€. Bargain, but we weren't expecting much - this close to Concorde and the Champs d'Elysées, a bottle of water will set you back 2€ - but upon entering we found beautifully clean premises and a host who was enthusiastic and charming in equal measure - and both of those measures were enormous. He asked first if we spoke French or English, and when we proposed French he rattled off the menu and the way it was prepared slowly enough for us to understand but fast enough to make us feel as though we were absolutely winning at French. In essence, for your 12€ you get a quarter of a roast chicken - and you can see these chickens roasting behind the counter - in a sauce of your choice. In addition, we could choose two hot sides from between roasted baby new potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed potato, ratatouille or quinoa. Every single sauce sounded delicious, every side looked exquisite. Our host ladled our plates high with the food, instructed us to help ourselves to glasses of water that he'd placed in the fridge so that they'd be cool, and moved quickly on to explaining this marvelous prospect to a new set of customers.

The food - oh, gods, the food. The chicken was amazing. The sides were amazing. The water was, well, water, but it was chilled and therefore amazing. Never underestimate chilled water. Knowing how my mother loves a roast chicken, I'm planning on taking my parents there when they come to see me in July. There'll be high class meals too, but sometimes you need to get down and greasy and rip into some chicken with your hands. Do not, like me, wear a classy shirt, because that delicious sauce will make a break for freedom all over your shirt, and then you'll have to fight the urge to then eat your shirt. And that will endear you to absolutely no-one. So that's my Paris meal tip: Chick Can, 12 rue Vignon, 75009. Wear a t-shirt. Or a bib.

The afternoon was given over to a flea market in the northernmost reaches of Paris, where we had to walk a veritable gauntlet of shifty looking people offering us glasses, belts, shirts and phones. They had probably fallen off the back of a lorry (an English euphemism which means stolen), and so the chances of me buying any of the goods was slim. All the same, it's a trifle intimidating, and made me realise I should start asking to be paid by cheque. At the market, Kate haggled down a fellow from 40 to 30€, displaying a mastery of the girlish pout that has toppled nations and brought low the mighty. And saved her 10€, so that's pretty good. She bought the three monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I myself spotted several julep cups (a julep is a kind of cocktail; you can see I'm already planning my return to the Aberdeen scene) and a beautiful shaker which knocked in at 220€. Temptation tried to slip her hand in my back pocket, but for the moment I resisted.

Once we quit the market we made our way to Chatelet, where there are plenty of bars and cafés where one can sit and watch the world pass by. So we grabbed a table and did so. There is no greater pleasure, in any city, than to sit and be surrounded by the hurrying people, to watch them and make no move at all to join their hustle and bustle. A couple of drinks later we made our lazy way to St Lazare where I said goodbye to Kate (by pulling a bizarre face and banging my face against hers) and goodbye to Mary (she's my girlfriend. If I need to tell you how I said goodbye to my girlfriend you need to step away from the Internet).

A journey home and a careful avoidance of my takeaway heaven - with a liter of excellent Belgian beer coating my insides, and despite my enormous lunch, a kebab was looking exceedingly delicious - brings me to here, finishing up the second of two gigantic blogs.

Thank you always for reading. And Fiona, if you've got this far, you may now rest.

For everyone else, here's a Youtube entertainer that my girlfriend (a concept that is apparently utterly alien to my sister) has got me hooked on. She's fantastic, but this video did make me question a lot of things.

No, don't ask what things. Just watch the video.

Really. Don't ask.

Désolé, je suis en retard !

A little background for the title of this blog. Back when I was in school, I was a little late to a lot of classes. I liked - I still like - talking to educated people about educating things, and being in school just meant the educated people were in closer proximity than ever before.

However, it's also a useful segue, because I've missed not one but two blogs, and this isn't the first time. I know that a lot of visitors to this blog read one page, and only do that because I post links everywhere I have a social presence. I appreciate you coming and reading, and you doing so makes me happier than a tired writer with a book of clichés. I also know that there is a core of about 50 people who visit every day, who visit even when I don't ram the fact that I've written something down your social-media-fed mouth, who come because they like what I write.

To you I want to apologise, because it's not polite of me to tell you that there'll be a daily blog and then skip days without saying anything. I know most of you are hoopy froods and are not bothered in the slightest by my tardiness (and, indeed, are slightly embarrassed by my apology) but go figure; I did wrong, and I want to apologise.

My priest is smiling down at me from wherever he is now. He didn't die, he just got moved.

So what's been going in your life? Me? Well, my girlfriend (whom my sister didn't know existed until about ten minutes ago: note that my friends read my blog while my sister does not) came over on Thursday. She arrived very early and was absolutely shattered, so we pretty much just kipped the day away between lunch, dinner, and a game of chess. We were pretty much intellectual sloths. It's a good way to live, I can tell you that much.

Friday I dropped Mary off at the station at about 11 to meet Kate, and the two of them went off to explore Versailles - although I was invited, and would have loved to revisit that glorious chateau, I had students - and my students come first. C has made leaps and bounds, and we're racing through her textbook. When we run out of book I'm going to get her started on the next in the series; holding children back because the rest of the class is not as intelligent is simply pointless. It makes the other children feel better but the intelligent ones crazy, and I should know. I was the child running around class and hiding under tables in frustration at the pace of the lessons.

B is struggling, but at the same time we're working at a more advanced level and you need to put a lot more effort in to reach the next "plateau" of skill - time he's not putting in at the moment. That's the root, and I hope to get to the base of it before long. After the lesson, I made my way back into Paris for dinner with the girls. Their hostel (called Oops, and an absolute bargain - if you're in need of a place to stay in Paris on a budget, look them up) was well placed on the border between the Latin and the Chinese district (the gang battles, I imagine, must be spectacular) and so we went in search of Exotic Fayre, as Chaucer might have said. We found it, and then some. Kate, being cultured and having travelled extensively in Asia, mentioned - in passing - as she perused a menu that she'd not had a "pho" for a long time. A "pho" is a special dish, a soup with noodles, meat, and heavily scented. It sounded delicious, and so I pointed out the next restaurant, where the word "pho" was stamped in capitals across their awnings. She gave a glorious little squeal of delight and we entered.

Kate is a ball of fizzing positive energy who, in earlier cultures, would have been worshipped. This tells me only that society has moved backwards. In any case, we had huge, steaming plates of Asian food - pho for Kate and me and caramelised pork for Mary, which smelled utterly gorgeous. I had chicken spring rolls as well, which I discovered (to my dismay) had been cooked in the heart of the sun. Unable to swallow (oh god, the burning agony!) and unable to eject the food from my mouth (oh god, the embarrassment!) I breathed quickly through parted lips and prayed for an end to the pain. The end came in the form of the top layer of taste buds being stripped from my tongue.

Never let it be said that the gods do not have a sense of humour.

Following dinner we dawdled over our cups, the conversation turning this way and that. In Aberdeen I confess I was in somewhat of a hurry: dinner over? Let's drink coffee! Coffee drunk! Let's play a game! Game finished! Let's go to sleep! Here - I don't know. I'd like to think I've chilled out a little, despite the amount of coffee I drink doubling. Perhaps caffeine is really a depressant, and Starbucks have convinced us it's a stimulant to generate more business. Maybe.

I feel like this is enough for one blog, there's only so much you want to read in one go.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Midweek madness

Having a Wednesday off is weird. Having a Wednesday off with no sign of work until Monday is quite frankly bizarre, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. However, it has allowed me to do plenty of work around the flat, a few more paragraphs of the year abroad project, and some campaigning. Campaigning from behind a desk, several thousand miles from the electorate - it's tricky.

However. Progress has been made, and I've even started planning what my parents are going to be taking home when they arrive in July - it's a long way off, but there's no harm in being prepared. I think my marble chess set, 500-page cocktail bible and cast-iron griddle can probably go. (Please take my advice: look at what you've packed for your year abroad and then get rid of everything that you know you're not going to use more than once a week.)

The afternoon was given over tutoring once more; I keep forgetting C is very young and only a beginner because she's rocking the present tense like a natural while B is struggling a little with the present perfect and the past perfect, because they're kind of hard to explain and it seems his teacher's not done the greatest of jobs. Still; me to the rescue - appropriate, since the current topic is superheroes. We managed a debate on why Superman is, in fact, the worst superhero and unique in terms of "secret identities." For more on this train of thought, see David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol.2. Or just see below.

With a few more pennies added to my pocket and some homework meted out - I am a very mean tutor -  I decided to skip the bus and walk home. The weather was warm and close, and the dark clouds overhead hinted at rain. They managed to pass without pouring on me, and the stroll home was fantastic - I bought the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby (here: Gatsby le Magnifique, which I like far better as a title) as I was walking and streamed it direct to my earholes from the internet via my phone, because technology has made magic completely obsolete. 

I (still) cannot get over how completely off-the-wall mad it is that we can actually do that.

Since I got home, it's been pootling, reading, and cleaning. With all this free time to procrastinate, it would be a crime to waste it...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


I've Pavlova'd myself with this blog.

For those who didn't know, Pavlov was a behavioural scientist who found that if he rang a bell before he fed some dogs, those dogs would soon start to salivate at the sound of the bell - not the scent of the food. They had been conditioned to respond in an abnormal way to a stimulus.

I have done the same thing to myself with this blog and the weather. When I started writing this blog, it was as it got dark - around six. I'd write a bit, fix some dinner, sketch out some ideas, speak to my friends, and then polish it off around nine, feeling satisfied and totally missing at least one glaringly obvious spelling mistake.

So now, instead of looking at the time and starting to write at around six, I look out my window, see it's still light, and continue working on my year abroad project or putting a watermark on videos or reading more about the woman-shaped target that "bleeds" when you shoot it, because everyone needs a solid dose of WTF in the evenings. Gender violence is not really gender violence when you present it as a joke. Apparently.

In any case, that means I eventually get round to writing (and eating) at about ten now, as the sun sets. In addition to this total upset to my workflow I'm also running for the position of School of Language and Literature convener at the University of Aberdeen, in absentia, which is proving to be a logistical nightmare and a missed opportunity to harass students outside Taylor building, which I know they pretend to hate but really love.

This morning was a mad stack of recordings as I tried to avoid missing a deadline (a fairly big one, since we've the next five days off) and, aside from one hideous outtake, the recordings are done and I am exceedingly pleased with the results. In addition, Adeline borrowed some more books, although as she did so she also managed to misplace a blank cheque for 3.000€, so perhaps she felt it wasn't worth it in the end.

Don't look at me, I haven't got it, and even if I did, I wouldn't cash it.

Well I mean I probably wouldn't.

The afternoon was given over to more research and more writing; for the first time since arriving here I'm thankful that the work has momentarily dried up because I've got a lot of pages to write and a lot of complex French to wade through. I foresee the next couple of days being dedicated to the same thing, which is good - it'll get me back in the swing of essay writing before going back to uni.

I was given the names of the two potential new stagiaires today, too, which is very exciting. I'm sure whoever gets it will be brilliant, as they're both fantastic candidates. Though - just so you know - you'll never replace me, and sometimes your colleagues will sigh, or look at you strangely, and they'll be wondering why you don't wear waistcoats, or have rugged good looks, or crawl in hungover to high heaven.

And then you will make them love all the things you do instead.

The afternoon was given over to TFI practice where I (still!) need to improve my grammar. It's better than it was but still not good enough, so that'll be an extra hour of work per day until the test. Posts may well get shorter.

To compensate for the huge length of this one, here's a pavlova, to complete the circle.

If you are a student at the University of Aberdeen,
You can vote in the elections happening right now!
Just go to and log in!

Monday, 6 May 2013


Today was Monday, and tomorrow, to all intents and purposes, is Friday.

This has messed me up no end.

You see, in France there is a relaxed attitude about working. We've discussed this before, but this particular moment is the pinnacle. Both Wednesday and Thursday are public holidays and, in recognition of the fact that really nobody is going to come into work on the Friday we're just going to take that as holiday too. By Friday, of the ten working days just past, I will have worked six.

Interestingly, France is not an economic powerhouse, and apparently there's much scratching of heads over this fact.



Two-days working weeks are not how you make money.

They're how you get really gleeful workers.

So: today I woke up utterly shattered and crawled into work. I needed two coffees before I could face the day, but with the dark nectar of Java boiling in my belly face it I did. I may have faced it with slightly crazy eyes, but that's beside the point. I did three takes of the first video project - good lord, there is nothing worse than having nobody but yourself for feedback - and will review them tomorrow. I then worked some more on my year abroad project and oh how time flies when you're researching.

The afternoon was spent feeding more scones into the cavernous maws of students and more research, which was fascinating but tough going. I'm pleased by the amount I can currently understand though, and paying extra-close attention to grammar means I should get marks for that, at least.

Had a lesson this evening in the glorious evening sun. I am going to miss this place.

I will have

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Fate, signs, and serendipity

Mary was 21 on Thursday, but she also had two finals, so she decided to have her birthday celebrations on Friday. Now on Fridays I normally tutor in the evenings, but those students are on holiday. My lesson with A, however, was still on track for the next day and so, feeling like a heel, I had told Mary that I could not make her party.

Knowing I'd not be going anywhere after the end of work that day, I confess I'd not bothered shaving or washing my hair. I had a vague idea of going to get my hair cut (I know, it's still not happened, and it's becoming quite hideous) but aside from that, there was nothing that required my attention. Having finished a little early that day, I decided to stretch my legs and wander down to the station to pick up some t+ tickets for the bus to A's house and back.

When I'd bought them, I found that someone had left a ticket from Rueil - where I live - to Paris. In addition, as I picked it up, my phone sounded in my pocket - A had to cancel the next day's lesson.

This is why the blog is titled as such. I do not believe in signs or fate; after all, if these circumstances had not arrived together in such a manner I would not be writing about them. Sometimes these things happen, but mostly they do not.

This time they did, and in short order I had rushed home, slung things in a bag, and rushed out again. The ticket that I'd acquired (or been left there by the hand of fate, whichever better suits your worldview) got me to St Lazare and one very quick transaction later I was on the train towards Le Havre.

I got there for around 10 and the girls met me there; Kate, Mary, and a newcomer - Jaimie, who takes the place (but could never replace) Paula. After hellos we made our way to a bar called The Trappist, which in true French style was tiny and already packed to the rafters. Getting a drink was a matter of simply giving in to the flow of people and seizing a glass as you passed the bar, and then dropping some money on the way back. Actually stopping was a foolish notion; the only place there was no movement was the loo, which (again, in true French style) you did not so much queue for as suddenly find yourself in front of and then leap into, seriously aggravating whoever had been just behind you.

I only had about three pints in this bar, while Mary did her best to sink her (admittedly tiny) weight in alcohol. Her friends, being good and true, did their utmost to aid in the completion of that goal, and before long it was well-achieved. To round off the night, the DJ - wherever he was - put on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and our little group erupted.

With that glorious chorus complete, we made out merry way home. Friends slowly peeled away, final wishes of "Happy Birthday!" hanging in the still-warm air. We slept until ten the next day, when Mary - unbelievably - suffered no hangover. I, on the other hand, had the kind of pounding headache and unsettled stomach that I normally associate with a third of a bottle of vodka - not three pints. Emasculated and injured, I took my sorry, sweating, shivering self home. The train journey was agony. The bus was worse. I strongly suspect that the blow to my manhood was causing my symptoms to worsen. Three pints!

In any case, I got home and collapsed. I woke at ten, better but still achey, and staggered out for something greasy and satisfying. I found it, and it was both, but it seemed to cure me almost immediately. Stuffed and sleepy, I fell back into sleep, but it was a much better and more natural sleep than before.

And so this brings us to now. With apologies for my tardiness - two posts missed! - and a recommendation of my friend Rachael's blog, where you'll see at the bottom that my grip of geography is as strong as ever. 

Oh, and it turns out Delirium is so-named because it knocks in at 9%. My manhood is restored, but from now on I'm drinking Belgian beers out of this:

25ml measures only

Thursday, 2 May 2013

High Tea, High Hat, Cymbal, Scat

Today I am more glad than ever I am not making a video blog, because I sound as husky as a husky who smokes a forty-pack a day. This is because I have been getting very excited about English, services we offer in the mediatheque, and switching from French to English with only the occasional missed step.

Today was inauguration day for my new mediatheque (which won't be mine in a mere two months time) and so we cracked out about 400 scones, 8 kilos of jam and enough clotted cream to fill a fridge. We also brought forth tea in 4 varieties; Darjeeling, Ceylon, Breakfast and, of course, Earl Grey. I also managed to find a site where the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games was hosted, and so the beautiful words of Jerusalem, Danny Boy and Flow'r of Scotland floated over the heads of my cheerfully babbling students; babbling, from Babel; the many different languages weaving a fabric of community.

All shared over scones and tea. My job gets better every day.

It was all over too soon, in fact, and before long I was back in my French class, where we had great fun with French text language. It's a mess, and I can't stand it, but I confess I over-reacted a little when a fellow student said it would mean that kids wouldn't be learning "proper language skills".

I don't agree. Some very smart people I know use text language, and it's representative of a fascinating look into the way a mind works. The spelling is literal, brief, saving space and time. It requires thinking in a certain way, and when you think the way another mind thinks, you're a little closer to them as a person. There are no "proper language skills," language is a continually evolving hydra. If you try squashing one part of it, it'll simply spring up again somewhere else. Teach "proper language skills", sure, but then realise that people will break them. From Shakespeare to Dizzy Rascal, the "rules" can be broken. Let's be jazz musicians, and learn the rules just to break them.

Ella Fitzgerald, ladies and gentlemen:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mayday! Mayday!

Days off in the middle of the week are weird. I am struggling to reconcile my day, which was spent tutoring, with the fact that tomorrow is not Sunday but in fact Thursday. This is weird and I don't like it.

Still, on the other hand, tomorrow is High Tea day! I'm very excited; I'm going to be spending the morning spreading jam and cream and cutting scones, and the afternoon just giving them away. In addition,  my colleague from the Association went on holiday this morning so I shall be swinging in the breeze, with no work to do. Apart from the cutting and spreading obviously.

Quick question, British brethren - cream then jam, or jam then cream?

This morning was a lovely start; stayed in bed until 9am and then pootled about, trying to put off the moment when I would have to face up to the fact that I had not a scrap of food in the flat. Today is - was, for you future people - the 1st May, the first of many public holidays during the month of May. Everything was shut; everything except McDonalds, which was where I had dinner. French haut cuisine at its finest; even the chips looked offended, as if they'd never wish to be seen dead in such an establishment.

I ate them anyway. McDonalds is to food what cement is to interior design. It'll do the job, but you wouldn't want to see it every day.

Dinner, such as it was, came after a surprise four hours of tutoring. It was only supposed to be two, taking advantage of the day off, but A started to struggle with some of the biology so two hours turned to three, which turned to four, and before long it was 6pm and I finally left.

Just as a notice for students on their year abroad - tutor. Tutor a mere ten hours a week, and you'll find that cash flows from your fingertips. You will wonder why you study. You'll seriously wonder why you ever worked in a bar. You'll question why you worked on a shop floor. You'll start doing it more and more until every hour of your life becomes a race from one house to the next, drinking two coffees per house and vibrating from the caffeine all night in your money-bed.

Tutoring. It's like heroin, only you make money.

So now it's late, and I've booked tickets to the States, because sometimes when a river crashes into you you have to go with the flow. My parents have booked their hotel, and they'll be here in July. My T.F.I test is in June, my project is (weirdly) coming along quite nicely, and my girlfriend is paying me a surprise visit in a week.

Oh. And my student's mother gave me three whisky cakes she had been given as a present and couldn't imagine ever eating.

Year abroad is just a metaphor for awesome.