Thursday 23 March, 2006

Anyone for raquette?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jim @ 8:40 pm

Crunch, crunch, crunch. No its not the sound of a disgrunted tennis player disputing a line call, its the sound one makes when they go snow shoe walking – called raquette in French. We spent a week skiing in the Savoie region at La Plagne ski area in late Feb. We were lucky to find accomodation actually, given it was the peak season when all of France (and much of Great Britain) goes to the alps. It was absolutely beautiful, high up in a quiet village opposite the ski resort with fantastic weather to boot.


We decided to give skiing a break for one morning and give raquette a go. We headed off to a small village in fantastic morning sunshine, strapped on the shoes to our hiking boots and headed off.


Each time we took a step we made a loud crunching sound. The sound was strangely calming amongst the peace and quiet. It was amazing where you could go with these things strapped to your feet. Had we not had them on we would have sunk to our knees in snow.

Thursday 16 March, 2006

weather & stuff

Filed under: Uncategorized — claire @ 3:43 pm

Yesterday we finally had a nice day, sun shinning and a reasonably comfortable temperature, we were well over due for it! It was so nice I gave a lesson outside using a soccer ball as a tool. This young lassie will be moving to Australia next year for 6months and I have it my head that she must learn important phrases and questions like how to ask the teacher if she can go to the toilet and what to do when one of the kids yells throw it to me!! throw it to me!! in the play ground. Do 10 year old girls play ball? At the moment Im trying to work out how to explain to her the difference between May I? and Can I?, my French doesn’t extend that far. Her father speaks excellent English so I think I will have to handball that job to him. I’m also worried she’s going to look the wrong way when she’s crossing the road, so we might have to cover that one lesson, without the assistance of Hector the Cat sadly. Was anyone else visited at primary school by Hector the giant yellow and blue cat who taught road safety?

Anyway it’s the weather I was talking about, so nice yesterday and crap again today. I am of course completely powerless to do anything about it but being so fed up I felt I had to do something. So in a widely optimistic move I have unpacked all my summer clothes and packed away all my winter clothes! So that should do it and Im confident my actions will not just benefit me but the whole of Lille as the Gods acknowledge my gesture and bring forth Spring.

Jim was recently interviewed for a local paper and today received a copy of the article in the mail. The mail came when Jim was at work but I knew who it was from so went ahead and opened it, I’m mildly disturbed by this. I never imagined I would be the type of wife who would open her husbands mail!!! I rang him at work immediately and much discussion followed about the last line of article, a quote by Jim that translates to I love living in France, the life in Australia is more stressful. We do love France and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have lived here and in Germany, however we are both also grateful the experience has highlighted to us how much we love the lifestyle in Australia. Australia is home and as Dorothy said, there is no place like home. The interview was over the phone and the quote came from Jims response to two separate questions, one about how he likes living in France and the other as to which country has a more stressful work environment. In the article Jim talks about the importance of scientific experimentation, it’s fun to see Jim in Print, the copy they sent is a photocopy otherwise I would of taken a photo to show you.

Everyone seems very excited about the Commonwealth Games, and everyone has asked us if we watched the opening ceremony over here. Are you kidding, the French telecast the opening ceremony of the COMMONWEALTH Games!!

Tuesday 14 March, 2006

whatever works

Filed under: Uncategorized — claire @ 2:45 pm

Yesterday evening as I was preparing to leave the home of one of the children I teach English to, I met with his father. I rarely see the parents as the children are always in the care of a nanny when I am about, both parents work. In fact I have never meet the mother and the father only once when he first interviewed me. As it was a rare occurrence we took the opportunity to talk, he is a very friendly man as well as generous, he seems very disappointed I haven’t billed him for every learning tool, including pens and paper, I use in the lessons. The conversation was fairly normal, we discussed his children’s progress, I also teach his daughter on a different day, and some general chit chat. What was strange about the conversation was initially he spoke in English and I spoke in French, as I assume like me he was wanting to improve his foreign language and as well be polite. But then after awhile he went back to French and eventually I went back to English. When we both spoke in our native tongue the conversation was much more free flowing and in depth, as when you learn a new language your comprehension improves much faster than your verbal skills. For me speaking French past a basic level requires some running of sentences in my head first and a bit of stop starting, it is not effortless. So there we were both happily chatting in our native tongues but completely understanding each other. An unusual means of communication but effective and fun! I will add a caveat, if the person is a very rapid speaker and not fully engaged with me then I’m struggling somewhat again!

Monday 13 March, 2006

we are still here

Filed under: Uncategorized — claire @ 1:48 pm

Dear oh dear, its been a month since I lasted posted, unbelievable! My excuses are connection problems and holidays, which in turn lead to being out of the habit. So all the emails asking what was happening have finally motivated me to log on and of course, as it works with these things, it’s no biggy and now I can stop thinking every night as I drop of to sleep shit I forgot to post again!

We had a great time skiing, good weather, wonderful accommodation in a very atmospheric gite and no broken bones. Though I had a glorious collection of truly horrendous bruises across the back of both thighs from where another skier slammed into me and after the tenth ca va? ca va? from them I begged them to ski on. Ca va? does not cut it with me as an adequate query to my well being after they have temporarily taken away my ability to stand. Jim did not see the incident and showed no particular concern or any interest in piggy backing me down the slopes so I valiantly soldiered on placating myself that appropriate levels of sympathy would follow as soon as the full extent of the collision was evident in the technicolour bruising I knew would appear.
We skied solidly for the week though we did take one morning off to go raquette(?), which is what the french call it when you pop tennis racket like shoes on and go snow hiking. It was a lot of fun and I would certainly be keen to do it again for a lengthier time. I’ll post some photos tomorrow from the holiday.

Other than that we’ve been keeping pretty quiet, Jims very busy at work with 3 paper publications coming up. And as I only work very part time and Jims on a Post Doc we have to watch our pennies to enable us to do the travelling we want. We find the cost of living in France is very high. Petrol is very expensive and what makes our blood boil is the road tolls, it wouldn’t be so bad except on a road trip they will cost more than the petrol. Our French friends tell us it is not so bad and at least they have very good roads, Jim and I smile but the truth is we think the roads are appalling, in Germany you do not pay road tolls and the roads are excellent. I notice the difference in the quality of the roads as soon as I cross the boarder to Belgium, just 20min away. Anyway just a small gripe and really its important to stay focused on the important stuff, like fromage, so very good and so very cheap.

It’s been so cold lately, the news headlines yesterday translated to the cold that keeps staying, it was -5 this morning. I just keep thinking in a few weeks we’ll be in Italy on the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples, I cant wait, I long to be in single layers and feeling the warmth of the sun instead of bundled up and developing a peculiar hatred for my winter clothes.

Some lovely news to share, Con and Toula have a new little man in their lives, Thomas. He looks so very cute in the photos and we are so happy for them. When we return home there are going to have a lot of new loved ones to meet, very exciting. I’ll leave it there as its impossible to catch you up with all our news in one go.

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