Hooray for me!!

As you might know, French bureaucracy seems to be one of the biggest nightmares for many people living here – including the French themselves!

About this time last year, I was contacted by a (possibly new) organisation called DIRECCTE (Direction Regionale des Entreprises de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi ) (No, I don’t know either!!) that informed me that because I was providing training I had to have a “registration number” and in order to get this I had to provide vast swathes of paperwork, including an entire Course Plan (IN FRENCH – so I had to translate my planning for an entire course of 30 hours training into French. A very useful waste of several hours). Thankfully, the very kind Director of ILS, one of the companies I have teaching contracts with, helped me to complete the appropriate forms.

Now, a year in, I have to provide a Bilan Pedagogique et Financier – basically giving information about hours teaching, and money earned in doing said teaching. It needs to be done by the end of April, but I had set myself a reminder for the beginning of March telling me Not To Put It Off (I know myself well!) but to start looking at it and working out what to do. As I know I won’t be working in April, I thought I could get on and do it.

Thanks to some fairly assiduous record keeping (most unlike me!) I think I have completed it correctly – although there’s a couple of sections that I’m unsure about. However M. Khodri (the very kind Director) has said he’d check over it for me on Wednesday. I’ve got to go to Clermont for an opthalmologist appointment, so I can pop into ILS then.

But just the fact I’ve got myself into this almost-finished position, well ahead of time, is very pleasing!!

….Not this time, I’m not!!!


On other news: I’ve got an appointment at a wig specialist tomorrow, and Friend Alison is coming to help me choose. I will post a picture.

At the party on Saturday, someone remarked that I still had my hair.

“Yes,” I said, “it is still firmly attached!” And took a handful and pulled to demonstrate. Except, I demonstrated that it wasn’t quite as firmly attached as it had been! I’m beginning to find that it’s starting to come out – not in great swathes, but just the odd few hairs. Hey-ho; I knew it was going to happen, so I’m okay about it at the moment. The time when I have to face a Baldy Dormouse might be a bit difficult, but I know it will grow back (though possibly greyer than it is now!) and I know it’s a sign that the chemo is doing its job, so I hope I won’t get too upset.



Summer School Fun

And yes, it was mostly fun!!

The kids were great, although there was one rather spoiled little girl from Spain. She threw a wobbly everytime we asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, or told her she couldn’t do something she wanted to do. She was a bit sly too, blaming others for things she’d done, or telling tales – “Teacher, Kati speak Russian!” (when she herself had been speaking Spanish ten to the dozen with her classmate!)

Mind you, we had a taste of what her parents were like and thus why she might have been as she was, when, in the evening, Isabella (not her real name) was talking to her father, & the phone was on speaker mode. There was the Spanish group leader in her room, and Aoife, the housemother, came & told Isabella to finish her call, and go to bed. When Isa relayed this message to Papa, he replied – not realising the phone was on speaker mode, or there was a Spanish speaker in the room – that basically she could tell the teachers to f— off and he’d finish the call when he was ready to.  I think even the child was a bit embarrassed by this, and she quickly ended the conversation!

Most of the other children were fine, and, while they may not have learned that much English, we at least hope they had fun!

We went to lots of different places, and did lots of different things. We painted plates


We visited the Hawk Conservancy Trust, where we saw Barn Owls

and Bald Eagles

and Ryan, who flew the Bald Eagles

We went to Beale Park, where there were lots of animals, and to Bucklebury Farm Park where we fed the deer

We went to other animal parks, and had two trips to see musicals: The Lion King and Aladdin. I enjoyed both, but I think the children were a bit bored. Even though they knew the stories and the songs, it must be difficult to follow a play in a foreign language. The shows were spectacular, and colourful, but even that failed to completely hold their attention. Still, they enjoyed stopping for Burger King at Heston services on the way back. And the plastic Smurf toys in the Kids’ Meal seemed to give them as much pleasure as the musicals had!

I think the favourite excursion was to the Oracle shopping centre – the children had so much money to spend (one had come away with £500 spending money for 4 weeks. That’s just ridiculous for a 8 year old child!) and quite frankly went a bit mad, buying vast quantities of plastic tat. And sweets. And finger spinners. Boy, did they buy Finger Spinners! One child ended up with about 6 of the things!

We had planned to go to the park in the afternoon, but it piddled down with rain – so we went back to Downe House and let them play with their new acquisitions instead. I think they were just as happy with that!

In class we baked cakes, and made Barn Owls out of coffee cups and paper plates. We painted symmetrical butterflies and made hot air balloons. We spoke and wrote in English, we watched lots of Simon’s Cat (that was my bribe: “Finish your work and we can watch a Simon’s Cat video.” ) If you don’t know Simon’s Cat, here’s one that I used when teaching Prepositions of Place

Where is the cat? Under the box…In the box…etc etc.

All in all, it was a good time.

Because my computer didn’t connect to the Wi-Fi at Downe House (nobody, including the Tech Support Team, could work out why) I ended up being much more sociable. Instead of holing up in my room in the evening, watching Coronation Street and Long Lost Family, I sat in the Common Room and chatted with the other teachers. It meant I could be supportive as they bemoaned the DoS’s most recent demands (while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that my Head of Dept was much less demanding!) and help give some ideas towards their lesson planning. I got to watch some of the Harry Potter movies – some of the younger teachers were die-hard HP fans. They watched the entire series of movies, but they mostly started too late for me to stay up to watch them. There was some insistance to take the Sorting Hat test to discover which House I belong to:  I am, apparently, a Hufflepuff.

Although I’m not into HP I was a tad disappointed to be a Hufflepuff (such a bloody stupid name) but having discovered the house crest is a badger, I’m quite happy. I like badgers. Hufflepuffs are also Very Nice People So that’s okay then.

I’ll tell you about the other things I got up to another time.




Techno Idiot

I do quite a lot of phone lessons – I phone the student (or vice versa), we chat a bit about the last week, we look at a text, discuss some grammar, and finish the call. I send them an email with details of what we talked about and something to read for next lesson. Job done.

However, I am taking over a student, who is used to using WebEx for his lessons. I tried to suggest that he used the phone (“I’m having some trouble setting up WebEx”) but he wasn’t having any of that!

I looked at WebEx. It looks complicated. I hid in the corner whimpering.

Then I got all grumpy and Mr FD calmly asked if it was something he could help with.

“Mmmph-y snotty mphfh WebEx poff technology mmmph not fair” I replied.

So patiently, Mr FD  set me up on WebEx  (well, he talked me through it) and then joined himself. Then we  had a “meeting” which was slightly bizarre as he was up in his study, and I could hear him speaking in Real Life before I heard him over the headphones! This was useful to help me find out about some of the features. (I do have to admit that it looks as though it might be kinda useful too. But it’s new and complicated!)

I will have to practise and play about to find out more…but I didn’t want to do that this weekend. I wanted to play with sequins and make cards to sell when I go to Convention in Munich. And watch Strictly Come Dancing on Catch-Up. Grumpy face.

Still, maybe by the time Monday morning and our first WebEx lesson comes round I will be the Techno Whizz-Kid.


Or maybe not…

Three Cheers for Mr FD!

Who has found a job!

TBH I’m not sure I totally understand what he’ll be doing but it’s something to do with IT, and websites and computer programmes and Stuff. He had a phone interview on Wednesday, a face to face today, and was told that he would hear on Monday or Tuesday. In fact, he received an email at about half past four, offering him the job!!

He thinks it will be challenging, interesting and – best of all – he’ll be earning money! It’s only a temporary post, through till mid September, but it’s paid, gainful employment.

Huzzah for Mr FD!

I’m sure he’ll be great at it, whatever it is!

Today I have mostly been…

…teaching and filing papers!

Over at Fat Dormouse I was bemoaning the fact that I had a difficult lesson today – catching up with a group for their final 16 hours after a 9 month break. It wasn’t easy, and there was way too much Teacher Talking Time (a no-no in ESL training!) but it wasn’t quite as difficult as anticipated. I hadn’t planned quite enough of the right level of revision work, but I was pleased with my on the hoof fill-the-last-30-minutes exercise.

They’d already worked in pairs to complete a questionnaire entitled “How Healthy Are You?” with questions like “How often do you go to the gym?” (we were practising using adverbs of frequency/ frequency expressions) so I asked them to work in the same pairs to create the questions and marking system for a questionnaire called “How hard do you work?” They managed to come up with some appropriate questions and possible answers (How often do you have a coffee break? How often do you sleep at work? etc) , and by the time they’d asked each other the questions, the last half-hour was finished!! Huzzah!

My other lesson later today will be easier – already planned, with one student. And dinner cooked by Mr FD on my return.

The other complaint at Fat Dormouse was the fact that, having cleared my teaching shelves, I have an awful lot of filing of random worksheets/lesson plans/resources to do. Instead of tackling it all at once (which is very unlikely to happen!) each time I sit at y desk to do some work,I take a small/large handful of papers (depending on how urgent the work is that I’ve got to do) and file them before starting anything else. Gradually, the pile should diminish! Except I didn’t do that before starting this blog post, so I shall do it now!

One thing less to worry about!

A couple of days ago I wrote about an unpaid bill, for work done between September and December, and how I was gearing myself up to do something about it. Like debt collectors etc.

Yesterday I received an email from the company that said:

Nous avons dû faire face ces derniers temps à des perturbations qui relèvent de la trésorerie et de la réorganisation des tâches administratives. Cela a pris plus de temps que prévu. Nous en sommes les premiers à le déplorer. D’autant plus, que nous sommes ravis de travailler avec vous. Nous vous prions de bien vouloir nous excuser pour tous les désagréments que nous aurions pu vous faire subir. (Google translate: We have had to face in recent times to disturbances which are the treasury and the reorganization of administrative tasks. It took more time than expected. We are the first to deplore it. Especially , we are delighted to work with you. We ask you to excuse us for the inconvenience that we could make you suffer .)

They have offered me a payment plan which – while it doesn’t take into account all the 40€ late payment penalties that I am entitled to ask for – means that I will be fully paid by the end of June. I have accepted this but told them that I won’t be working for them until the debt is paid ( nor, though they don’t know this, will I be working for them AFTER the debt is paid!) and that if a payment is late I’ll be following it up with the Greffe de Tribunal de Commerce (small claims court)

There are other things to worry about, not least a small waterfall that seems to have decided to seep into our cellar from who knows where (but Mr FD suspects next door’s dishwasher feed) and not-a-lot of work at the moment, but at least I won’t have to worry about sorting out debt collectors and so on.

I feel relieved.


I am terrible at doing things I don’t want to do. I generally work better if the deadline for doing things is tomorrow…but I also find myself worrying about it beforehand!!

I work for myself (“auto entrepreneur” in French) and generally the companies/individuals I work for are great at paying me on time. There is a law that one should be paid 30 days after the receipt of the bill, and I’ve had very few problems. A couple of individuals are late payers, and one person I used to teach stored up the bills for 3 or 4 months and then paid me. But it was okay as I knew she was dependant on various payments from the state, and she was a friend. I knew Where She Lived!  Otherwise everything is fine…


One company, EAL Formation, has always been very laissez faire with their payment of my bills – you never know when the money will arrive. But I now have not been paid by them since September and (with penalties for late payment of bills) they owe me just under 1,300€ (£938/1,371 US$) I have written two letters demanding payment, and sent bills every month. I also have replied to their requests for my availibilities to teach for them with terse little messages saying “As I have not been paid for 6 months I do not wish to work for the company”

BUT I have been lying awake at night worrying about what I should do…is all my paperwork okay…do I have contracts with them… Maybe it’s my fault…

I finally got all the paperwork together, bills printed out, letters + dates of receipt (I sent them recorded delivery), contracts, paperwork. Now all I need to do (put off until tomorrow…) is finding a debt recovery agency. Something else to worry about!