We’re doing OK

Everything is fine here – we are both working, and so our weeks are busy. Mr FD holes himself up in his study, I hole myself up in mine, and we meet briefly when one or the other makes a hot drink for us both, or over lunch. I’m busy because I’ve actually got a couple of new students, and also because working from distance means I need to write a follow up email to the students – which I wouldn’t do if we were meeting face to face.

On Monday morning I plan my lessons, and prepare the lesson summaries as much as I can; then from Monday afternoon onwards I’m teaching, or doing admin work. Although I’m finding it tiring I am very grateful to have work, as I know that so many self employed people are facing financial problems. We also are saving money as I’m not travelling to Clermont every day. In fact, Soozy (which we collected the Saturday before the lockdown) has hardly moved since she came home!!

Our treats involve going next door, to the restaurant-turned-takeaway to buy something. The people only opened the restaurant a couple of weeks before the lockdown meant restaurants had to close, so we’re supporting them as much as we can. We’ve had pizzas, burger-and-chips, and the most delicious chocolate/apricot gateau. That was so rich I had to eat my slice over two days! Today they’re cooking Cantonese rice and Spring rols, but we forgot to order, so we’ll probably just have a pizza.

As we’re out in the country confinement isn’t affecting us too much. We get out most days for a walk, but we have to remember to take our Attestation. You aresupposed to print out a new one every time you go out, but so far I’ve been tippexing out the date and writing today’s date. It seems remarkably wasteful of paper and ink to keep reprinting, and tippex shows that one is not trying to cheat in anyway. I’ve not been stopped any way, so I’ll plead ignorance if I have to.

Shopping is reasonable, with most things available. We are definitely using local businesses now, and trying to spread ourselves around.

But confinement has been extended to mid-April, with most people expecting it to continue to the beginning of May. One of my students, who is the director of a small company, has said the Government is warning businesses to prepare to be closed until the end of May, or even the end of June!

However, we know it’s the right thing to do – unlike many people in the UK, it seems! Our local GP, and the head of the school have both succumbed, with the GP being in hospital for several days. I’ve not heard how he’s doing. Tonight I’m meeting Friend Alison for a virtual apero – FriendCathy, in the UK at present, was invited but she thinks it’s possible she has the virus too.

The cats know what to do!!

Actually our cats love having us round, especially Jasper and Millie, who follow the sun around Mr FD’s study. I get Bib coming to meeow at some of my late afternoon students!

 

Caught Up (kinda!)

Do you know, I’m not sure how helpful it is for me, or for anyone else, to read about how I failed at completing 40 Acts this year, so I think I’m going to stop blogging about what I haven’t done, but rather briefly think about what I have done. If anyone wants to follow 40 Acts, the blog is here so you can read it for yourself.

For ACT 13 I posted some Ninja notes through random post boxes, some with Bible verses, others with encouraging sayings

For ACT 15 I tried to pray whenever I felt prompted…which wasn’t very often, I must admit!!

For ACT 16 I promised our neighbours, who are facing the closure oftheir restaurant, that we would support them in their takeaway business. So far, that’s meant three pizzas and two slices of gorgeous Chocolate-Apricot gateau! Not exactly a hardship! We are also committed to shopping locally – partly through necessity, but also to support small businesses through this difficult time.

For ACT 18 we are driving much less…!!! (Though not necessarily by choice) Isn’t it amazing how Venice is so clean when the everyday traffic stops

 

For ACT 23 I am trying hard not to moan through this confinement period: we know it is for the good of our health, and the good of others’; we have work to do and so can earn money; we are able to go out for a short walk in the beautiful countryside round here (1 km from our homes, no more than 1 hour, go alone); there are supplies in the local supermarket & other shops. We are lucky. I know there are people confined in small appartments with children, trying to work, or unable to work, worried about where money is going to come from…so definitely NO COMPLAINING!!1

For ACT 24 I’m telling you about LEND WITH CARE which is, in my opinion a great charity to support. Now I give a £15 voucher to any young couple I know getting married (!) so they can choose who to support on a new venture, as they start on their new life together. And it’s the gift that keeps giving: as you are paid back, you can lend to another entrepreneur. With an outlay of my initial £15 I think I have supported 4 or 5 people starting new businesses.

There! I’ve caught up in a more positive way!!

LUNCH TIME!!

I’ve got three lessons this afternoon, and quite honestly I’d rather just have a nap…

Catching Up

As I said, 40 Acts has been a disaster for me. I started off less enthusiastically than in other years, and quickly lost motivation, as the news of the pandemic became more serious and I started feeling anxious.

So, what did I do, if anything…You can click on the title of each section if you want to read the meditation from 40 Acts

ACT 7: You first

After you.’ It’s not something you hear very often in our preoccupied, me-first society. Yet, how easy it is to offer a higher place in the queue, your seat on the bus, the chance to go through a road junction first. And what a blessing to receive it!

Green: Everywhere you go today, hold the door open for anyone who’s following you.

Amber: Allow another shopper to go ahead of you at the checkout or let another driver out of a junction.

Red: Continue into the week, looking for opportunities to practice ‘preferring others’. Determine to make this a constant habit.

I do try to be considerate, to hold doors open, to let lesser loaded shoppers go first and so on…So today I continued to do this. I also tried very hard not to make sarcastic comments (only to myself) about drivers who I considered to be driving slower than they should be! Nothing world shattering, I’m afraid!

It did make me smile though, as I remebered last year…One 40 Acts day I was feeling right mardy, as I wandered the aisles of Lidl with my trolley filling up. I felt a prompt from somewhere, pointing out my less than charitable efforts.

“Oh alright then,” I grumped, “I’ll let anyone with a basket go first.” SIGH

I got to the checkout. Shortly after, a guy holding a couple of baguettes arrived behind me.

Allez-y” I said, and he thanked me, and went next. As I prepared to unload my shopping onto the conveyor belt someone else arrived with a basket. Hah, God, I thought. Very funny.

Allez-y” I said, and as she slipped by me (yes, you’ve guessed it) two more people with baskets arrived. By now God and I were in on the joke, so I was happy to let them past too…but it did make me wonder about God’s sense of humour!!

ACT 8: UNDER THE WEATHER

Coughs, sneezes or assigned to bed… if you live alone, it can be difficult to manage cooking or even making a drink; and if others depend on you, there’s the pressure to carry on, regardless of how ill you feel. Someone you know is going through a hard time with their health, so put aside time to help them in a practical way.

Green: Text or call someone you know who is unwell to see how they are doing.

Amber: Create a care package or ask someone if they’d like you to prepare a meal for them.

Red: Set aside some time for a hospital or care home visit, or relieve someone who cares for a relative full-time for a couple of hours.

This seemed a bit ironic, as the pandemic crept closer to us… But Mr FD wasn’t feeling 100% as he was nursing a cold. I felt that looking after him, and keeping my patience (he’s not the best of patients!) was a good effort.

I did also text a friend who wasn’t feeling well, with some Get Well Soon thoughts.

ACT 9 PREPAID

Imagine turning up to buy something, only to find you haven’t brought enough money. You apologise and start to move away, but the assistant says you can take it because someone else has already paid. The stuff of fantasy? Not if you become part of a growing momentum of pre-paying on behalf of the needy.

Green: Leave coins taped to a car-park ticket machine.

Amber: Check out websites like www.suspendedcoffee.com or search on Facebook for ‘suspended coffee’ to find an outlet near you where you can buy drinks for the homeless to collect later.

Red: Contact a Christian holiday centre and ask if they have a bursary scheme whereby you can offer to pay towards a guest’s stay.

I intended to do the green act, but never quite got round to it. The best I could do was leave a spare plastic jeton in the supermarket shopping trolley. Not even a 1€ coin, but a plastic jeton!! Still, I guess it would still be useful if you didn’t have your coins with you.

ACT 10 LITTERBUG

Every cigarette butt casually discarded, every sweet wrapper or takeaway container soon adds up to a big problem on our streets. Let’s care for the planet God gave us. Find a bin. It’s a win-win.

Green: Pick up five pieces of litter today.

Amber: Keep a pair of protective gloves in your pocket or bag, ready to remove debris wherever you go. You could even separate out the litter to recycle at home.

Red: Plan a community clean-up day. Advertise it as widely as you can and gather a team to systematically work through specific areas. Spread the word on social media with the hashtag #40acts.

Sorry. Did nothing…

ACT 11: FRIEND INDEED

We’re thinking of friendship in its thick-and-thin sense, today. Among our circle will be friends who are going through tough times and need someone near them. Sometimes, fear of saying the wrong thing makes us stay away, but so often all that’s needed is some company and a listening ear.

Green: Call a friend who you know is struggling and ask them how they are.

Amber: Give a small thing like a card or their favourite food to let a friend who is sad know that you are thinking of them.

Red: When you speak to someone, listen carefully to what they tell you and, if anything rings alarm bells, ask them if they’d like you to go with them to get extra support elsewhere.

We have friends in Rome – as the pandemic in Italy gets worse, and the restrictions more severe, I sent them a message assuring them of love and prayers. They joined in our Zoom church service today – it was lovely to see them!

Also, later on, after France was put under lockdown (allowed out only for a few reasons) I posted some Ninja notes into people’s post boxes – hopefully to cheer them up.

ACT 12: CHOCOLATE TUESDAY

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like chocolate, so this one is for lots of people around you. Wherever you go today, spread the love, chocolate style! You’re obviously going to need to work within your budget, but push the boat out and buy Fairtrade if you can.

Green: Buy a box or tub and leave it by the coffee machine at work, or at the school reception. Add a cheerful ‘help yourself’ note, with the hashtag #40acts (and your name if you want to encourage a response).

Amber: Arm yourself with chocolate and hand it out to those you meet as you go through the day.

Red: Keep an eye out and an ear open for God to prompt you about who to approach. As you offer them the chocolate, add an explanation about 40acts and see what conversations open up about Jesus.

I knew this was coming, as Chocolate Tuesday is a recurring Act, so I was already prepared! Chocolate bars for the students I was teaching, a box of chocolate for the staff at the Language Centre, and another left out for the students. A card and a 40 Acts sticker. While my students were surprised, they were happy to accept. And one bar left over for Mr FD!

I’m pausing in the mammoth catch up now, as I’m going to have a Mothering Sunday Skype (or equivalent) call to my mum.

More at a later date!!

Live Car?

If you remember, a few posts back I told you that our little Fiat 500 died on us

We had to decide what to do, so having looked at a few cars, we’ve decided that we’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new car.And so the next thing was which one we’re going to buy. We test drove one on Wednesday night, and it seems a good medium sized car, with enough “poke” for motorway driving.

Dear Mr FD was going to try to organise the finance and hopefullyeverything will work out.

I don’t believe God is a “God of Parking Spaces” (that is, miraculously providing parking spaces when prayed for) but I do believe he takes an interest in the minutiae of our lives. So I prayed that we’d find the right car for us, as it’s necessary for us both to have one; as soon as I saw this one, it felt like I would be very happy driving this car.

Let’s hope things fall into place…

Does it come with an Itty Bitty Kitty too?!

ETA: there has been a problem with this car, afterall. Mr FD has unearthed the fact that it hasn’t had regular oil changes, which could have caused long term damage to the engine. So, the search continues…we’ll find The Right Car at some stage.

Pet Patrol Rescue!!

I was driving to church last Sunday, quite early as I was taking the service.

As I was going a tad below the speed limit on the motorway, I saw a small black cat hunched up close against the central reservation, obviously terrified.

Very similar to this

By the time I had clocked it, processed what I’d seen and made the decision I couldn’t leave it there I was probably over a kilometre further down the motorway. So I did what any cat lover would do…

I drove to the péage (tolls), drove on to the next exit, exited the motorway, drove back onto the motorway, went through the tolls, drove up to the next exit, exited the motorway, went through the toll, turned round, went back through the toll, drove back onto the motorway, and stopped on the hard shoulder.

Then I walked briskly along the hard shoulder to where I’d seen the cat.

There it was, still as could be. I waited for a break in the traffic (Sunday morning, there wasn’t very much traffic) and then scurried over. To where a wet and soggy scarf was lying all scrunched up..! I’d driven 30 minutes and 30 kilometres out of my way to rescue a scarf!!!

When I told the congregation why I was only just on time for the service they thought it most amusing!

Dead Car

Don’t worry! This isn’t us!!

Last Friday I had set off for work nice and early (7.15) as I had a lesson at 8.30 in Clermont. About a kilometre before the junction onto the motorway there was a small clunk and the engine stopped running. I drifted over to the side of the road, and tried to restart.

A-huh-a-huh-a-huh, wheezed the engine without coughing into life.

Happily we had just signed up for a good breakdown package which had kicked in on the Monday before (looks a bit suspicious!!), so I was able to phone through for a breakdown truck. However, with me, these things are never quite as simple as they might be: it was one of those push button 1 if… helplines, and so I had to phone & listen about 5 times before I could work out which I needed! I finally chose the right one, and it went onto a website where I filled in my details (I do ask myself what one does if one doesn’t have a smartphone, or you don’t have internet access…) Having done this, I was told that my emergency locator wasn’t turned on, and please enter manually my position.

With fingers rather numbed and clumsy through cold (it was about -2°) I somehow managed to say that I was located in a road in a town in department 91 (we’re in dept 42!) and was cheerily told that my location in dept 91 had been logged and a breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

 

“What?! No!! Oh *$#*!”# ” I spluttered and tried phoning the helpline again.

Of course, there is no instruction “Press button 6 if you have inadvertedly sent a breakdown truck to the wrong department” (or if there was I didn’t understand the instruction!!) so I panicked and got a bit weepy. But then, pulling up my big girls’ knickers I thought about it and found another number on my bit of paper to phone. I explained my dilemma, was told not to worry and so relieved that the resue mission in dept 91 was going to be cancelled, I restarted my cry for assistance. I seemed to manage to enter my location successfully, received another text telling me that the breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

I settled down to wait. Even though the car was on the side of the road, with its hazard lights flashing, I thought it best not to wait in the car in case of being shunted by one of the reasonably infrequent but heavily laden lorries that whizzed by, so I walked briskly up and down to keep warm. Thankfully, by 8.00 the sun was coming up and the air was becoming warmer. Then my phone rang.

“Hello, Madame? You are located where on Rue Whatever?”

AARGH. The resue mission hadn’t been cancelled and somewhere in department 91 a breakdown truck was looking for me!

I explained the situation and he was very understanding, telling me not to worry. He rang off, and I started to wonder if in fact my second call had been correctly logged. By now it was 9.00 and customer services was open, so I rang that number. I was right: it hadn’t been logged, so the wpman at the other end of the phone took the details manually… and within 20 minutes a breakdown truck from Noiretable (16 km from our village) had turned up.

He loaded the little poorly Fiat onto the back and off we went.

At first he thought it was something straightforward, but more investigations proved it was more serious. I called a friend to pick me up, while the Garagiste did more diagnostics. The final upshot is that the timing chain (which is the equivalent of a cam belt) has broken. It will cost at least 1,000€ to mend, but it could be more if it has damaged other parts of the engine when it broke.

We have to decide if it’s worth doing, if we want to do it, if we can afford to do it, and if we don’t do it what we are going to do…we need two cars as we work in oposite directions! For the moment, a kind friend has lent us his second car, but we can’t rely on it for too long.

Hey ho.

Work Experience

Every year, the young people who are in troisième – the last year before they go to Lycée – have to do a stage, which is basically a week of work experience, in a shop, a business, an office, or wherever they can find. Most schools have them doing this round about the same time, so you can imagine that it’s sometimes quite hard to find somebody who is willing to take on a stagiaire, who hasn’t been already metaphorically reserved by someone else!

A few year’s ago, my friend’s son, Flynn, (bi-lingual) was able to go to the UK (his parents paid for flights, obviously!) to spend a week with his uncle, who is a plumber. He then did his oral report (which counts as part of the Brevet – GCSE equivalent) in French & English. He got 100% in his grade. The hope was that his sister, India, would be able to do the same, but to follow her Aunt, who works in sales. Unfortunately, due to business trips & prior engagements, this didn’t work out, so she asked if she could follow me instead. I agreed, and so it was all planned. Last week, she was “my” stagiaire, and this was the planned timetable:

MONDAY 5 hours
 
09.00 – 12.00 Group lesson

(Bonjour World)

12.15-12.45 Yves (BW)
12.45-13;30 LUNCH!!
13.30-14.00 Olivier (BW)
14.00-16.00 PAUSE
16.00 – 17.00 Paul (BW)
TUESDAY 5.5 hours
 
09.00-10.30 Jean Luc (BW)
10.30-12.00 Cedric (BW)
12.00 – 13.30 PAUSE
13.30-15.00 Roman (MF)
16.00_17.00 Pascal (BW)
WEDNESDAY 7 hours
 
10.15 – 11.45 Yvalda
11.45-12.30 PAUSE
12.30- 13.15 Valentin
13.20-14.20 Adam
14.20-15.20 Yannis
15.20- 16.35 PAUSE
16.35-17.20 Maelan
17.30- 18.30 Lilou
THURSDAY 4 hours
 
10.00-11.00 Charlene (BW)
11.00 – 14.00 PAUSE
14.00-15.30 Audrey (MF)
15.30- 17.30 PAUSE
17.30 – 19.00 Aicha (MF)
FRIDAY 5.5 hours (or 4.5)
8.30 – 10.00 Rachele (MF)
10.00- 11.30 Sylvain (MF)
11.30-12.15 PAUSE
12.15 – 13.15 Conversation Class (MF)
13.15- 14.45 Lionel (MF)

It all started quite well… She would see how an English teacher worked and how I buzzed about to different companies for my lessons.

Monday was fine, as the pause gave her a chance to ask me questions, and to have a look round Bonjour World.It started to fall apart on Tuesday – we had the two lessons in the morning, but the student at 13.30 wasn’t starting until the following week, so we had a 4 hour gap to fill! We visited the Metaform main office, so she could compare the two, and we ate our lunch there…Then what to do? Finally we went to Noz, and wandered round as slowly as we could, then we sat in the car park and watched half of the movie “Ghostbusters” on Indie’s phone   until it was 16h and time for the next lesson. We arrived in the company, only to find the student had forgotten the lesson (or couldn’t be bothered cancelling it) and was out on business…We’d hung around aimlessly for 4 hours, when we could have gone home. OK, I’m getting paid for the 1.5 hours of lesson, but not for the four hours of wasted time.

On Wednesday, I had two students cancel too – in good time, so there’s no penalty for them – so again, we had 3 hours to kill. So my stagiaire on “work experience” came to Lidl with me to do the shopping, then we went to the hospital to make my appointment for a check up, and then to McDonald’s for an ice cream!!

The day did have its compensations though, as India was rather taken with one of the young men I teach! I think he rather liked her too, as there was some mutual blushing going on!! As India is trying to decide which Lycée to go to, I think that Adam may be a draw to one in particular!!

On Thursday plans went awry too – the afternoon student had to cancel (in good time) for an important meeting, so we were left with 6.5 hours to kill. So I took her for lunch…

Burgers in the Garden Ice Café (which were very delicious!) and then we went shopping…

By 16h we were both flagging so we went to the Metaform Centre Ville office, where my next lesson was, and relaxed on a sofa with a cup of tea and a book. India fell asleep, but I failed to get a photo of that! My student arrived promptly, so we had the lesson and then went home.

Friday went according to plan (save for no Conversation Class) and as we had finished by 14.45 we decided to go to the pictures! We went to see Jojo Rabbit, which we both really enjoyed. Mark Kermode, whose opinion I trust, was, however, less of a fan. In my opinion, his description of the imaginary Hitler as “more like a petulant schoolboy than a murderous dictator” misses the point; I think the Imaginary Hitler was voicing Jojo’s thoughts and so when Imaginary Hitler was questioning Jojo’s reasos for doing something (in a petulant manner) it was Jojo himself questioning his own motives. And when Jojo finaly turned on Imaginary Hitler, he was turning on his own Nazi beliefs… But maybe I’m wrong. I found it balanced the tragic with the comic well, and made us sympathise with the young boys and girls brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda. I’d recommend it.

The film had just finished, and the credits were rolling, as I turned my phone on – immediately I got a call. It was one of India’s teachers calling to see how her stage had gone. I almost answered by saying “Excuse me, we’re in the cinema…” but luckily didn’t! I answered the questions with a good report – after all, she had done well, helping with games and answering/asking questions, so there was nothing negative to say.

I finished the week popping into see India’s mum for a glass of wine!