Going global…

Yesterday (Friday) I had just one lesson, by computer, so I was able to put a plan I’ve had for a long time into action…

Despite having a dear OH who is talented with computers and websites, and despite him saying “You really should have a website” several times, and despite him being unemployed for a long period of time…Despite all these things, I don’t have a website. While I don’t rely on random people for work, being employed (on a contract basis) by three language schools, I still could do with a little more work. Also, I have lost three students who have finished Lycée this year (although one of them might still be going to have lessons à distance…) so I need to find some replacements. And a website helps.

So yesterday I sat down to design one. I started with Go Daddy, but found that I didn’t like the choice of themes, and I published it by accident before it was ready – and now an unfinished site seems to be floating round the ether. I will recover it though!

So then I went with WordPress – I know the interface better and felt more comfortable using it.

I can present to you ANGLAIS’TUDES It’s not perfect – the contact button doesn’t work! – so I will have to call on Mr FD, but I’m quite pleased with it. I think the French is reasonably okay, as I filched various sentences from two other websites… I also need Mr FD’s help to do special things to get it to appear on Google when people type in various key words.

A week in Lol Cats…

Inspired by Kezzie, I thought I’d let you in on my week – what did I do? Actually not much – her account is much more interesting!

On Monday I had my last group lesson with the Chambre de Metier – this group has been nice to work with, but a bit difficult because the levels weren’t equal – two of the four students were higher level than the others. Still, we managed! Because of the regulations related to Covid-19, everyone wore masks in the public areas of the language school, but in the classrooms we just sat a metre (or more) apart, and used hand sanitizer. We reviewed the “be + going to + verb” structure for talking about the future, had a quick whip through the first conditional, and reviewed the content of the course. We also ate homemade scones and redcurrant jelly at coffee break time – I’d said I would bring them in.

As I was fasting I didn’t have much lunch (I’m doing the 5:2 eating plan) – especially as I’d had a scone! Then I packed up and walked to the other Language school where I work for my other student. It was his last lesson too, so I reviewed the tenses we’d looked at with him, and talked about what he might do to continue improving. He knows the grammar rules, but just doesn’t ake much effort to apply them!

I drove home via B&M Home Bargains, where I bought some puppy training pads (for the Cats who Piss N’importe Où) and a few other bits and bobs. Dinner was a fairly unexciting vegetable-and-chicken stirfry. The evening brought about The Crown on Netflix.

Tuesday saw me driving to Clermont again – annoyingly just for one lesson, but it was with a new student, so I felt I couldn’t really cancel! She was really nice – a reasonable level, and willing to talk! I think I shall enjoy teaching her. I completed some admin work and then walked into the town centre to book an opthalmologist appointment – for next January! – and a podologist appointment – for next Tuesday! I moseyed around the shops, and then made for home.

I called in at another student’s home, as she was willing to help me sort out some paperwork and check I had all the papers required for a company I work for. Home by 17.00 so I squeezed in an episode of “Outlander” – I read the books in this series ages ago, and then found it on Netflix. I am enjoying it.

Little quiches, salad and potatoes for dinner and then we watched more of The Crown…

I had a lesson in Roanne today – just one, but also I do the shopping then, so it’s not a journey just for a 1.5 hour lesson. Before leaving I checked I had planned Yvalda’s lesson, and I also planned the week’s menu and wrote the shopping list. Then I noticed the time and had to hurry to get there on time!

After a quick picnic lunch in a nearby park, I went to Lidl and then to a smaller Carrefour (not a hypermarket). It was getting rather warm so I was glad to remove my mask when I got back to the car. I fully understand and support the wearing of masks, but in warm weather I find them stifling…It was about 30/35° today. When I got home I unloaded the car, unpacked the shopping and then collapsed on the sofa with a cold drink. And “Outlander”. I poached some apricots that were getting a bit old in a honey and vanilla syrup to have with yoghurt.

Chorizo sausages, Jamie Oliver spelt-and-other-grain mix and green beans for tea. And then guess what we watched! My MiL phoned too – she’s a bit depressed at the moment, having gone through confinement alone, she is now suffering from vertigo. It’s not much fun for her.

Thursday already!! In the morning I had adminny things to do – papers to finalise, scan and print, cheques to send, bills to complete, postcards to write and send. The morning went by quickly, with Friend Alison calling by for a cold drink in the courtyard at about 11.00.

I had a 2 hour lesson by computer – it usually goes by quickly as Audrey is happy to talk, and is a good level. We discussed whether companies should have a quota system for employing women. We also talked about her children and what they were doing now.

Then it was time to chase down Millie – she should have gone to the Vet ith Bib last week, but she’d seen the basket and gone into deep hiding. This time I had to get her…I did, after about 10 minutes stalking, which involved pulling out the bed, some rude words, some pitiful crying and finally mute despair. She was only going for her injections!! She “sang” all the way there, but gave me the frosty silent treatment on the way back.

Thursday is another fasting day so it was big chicken salad with the leftover spelt from yesterday. I think we tried watching something different tonight, and gave “Stranger Things” a go. It has potential I think…

It was “Yay, it’s Friday” day as I had already decided that I was not going to work today. It was ridiculously hot too. Mr FD said that in Roanne the car registered 43°C – up here I’m guessing it was high 30s and I Don’t Do Heat. So I watched “Outlander”, I did a bit of admin that I really couldn’t leave any longer, went to the chemist to pick up my prescription, watched “Outlander”; made a birthday card for our friend Louis, watched “Outlander” (Yes, I am enjoying it!!) and had a snooze read!!

Dinner was baked salmon with salsa verde, rice and green beans. And poached apricots. Then The Crown. Yes, I think I did watch a bit too much TV today, but it was really too hot to do very much at all.

On Saturday morning, Mr FD pruned (nearly decimated) the elder tree outside – revealing an intricately made sparrows’ nest in the process, which cleverly entwined plastic with natural items. It was empty, thankfully, as the babies had fledged. I cleaned the kitchen and living room. Then we went round to Louis’ to drop off the card. On the way back we noticed that the restaurant next door is having a tapas evening today (Sunday) with a free glass of sangria for anyone sporting red accessories. We checked to see if Friend Cathy wanted to come, and then booked.

The afternoon was rather lazy, finishing off the various tasks that we’d had to curtail to go to see Louis, and sitting in front of the fans exclaiming “Bof! It’s hot!” At about 17.30 Friend Cathy came down for aperos. Dinner was pork, chestnut and mushroom sausage rolls, with green bean salad and rice salad (using yesterday’s leftovers. I went to feed the Poor Cats before dinner – they were happy to see me. Evening entertainment included the end of the FA cup final and Pointless Celebrities.

This morning it was our Zoom service – I was hosting it, and Bib “helped” a little, making various things flash up on screen when not required, but it went reasonably well.

And now it’s Sunday afternoon and I feel in need of a zizz before we go all Spanish this evening at the Tapas event.

Witterings (mostly about work)

Hi.

Not sure what to write about but I feel I should pop in…

It’s a frustrating day – I had two lessons planned – both by computer. The first one, this morning, was a failure as the connection was bad and kept cutting out. After 20 minutes we gave up and rescheduled. My student is a really low level, and it would be hard enough face to face. By computer it’s difficult and with a flakey internet connection it’s nigh-on impossible!

Then half an hour before my second lesson, I got a text saying she couldn’t make it because of an unplanned event. At least I get paid for that one – but I’m left feeling like I’ve been marking time today. That’s actually not true, as I spent the morning doing admin tasks that needed doing, and actually, I could get on and do my ironing this afternoon, but it just feels like a day that went wrong.

I’m coming to a dry period with work – most of my Wednesday students finish for the summer, as they’re mostly school students. Of the two that aren’t school students, one has a boat on the Med, and so dissappears for weeks away on the boa. The other still wants lessons through summer, but as she looks after grandchildren and also goes away, I may find that being sporadic. I’ve come to the end of all but 4 of my contracts with one language centre (and two of those will finish by the end of July), and with the other Language Centre, I have about three or four students by computer plus one group who will finish in July too.

Happily, Mr FD’s job, and money saved during lockdown will keep us afloat. Also I should get the full, one-off payment for one course of lessons by the end of July which will be over 1,000€. So I’m not worried about money. Things are always light during July/August/beginning of September and they should pick up when the schools go back.

I’ve made some cards recently – I took photos, but don’t seem to be able to put them on my computer to show you. Frustrating. They were for the three young men that I’ve been teaching who are off to university/ further education in September. I’ll have to try to find some new students to take their places.

I’ve been taking face to face lessons for about a month now – at Bonjour World, the Covid-19 precautions are fairly thorough, with masks being worn in public areas, hand sanitiser and cleaning spray in all rooms, and social distancing (1m) in the classrooms. At Metaform, I’ve been mostly alone in the satellite office – so again, social distancing and frequent hand gelling have been the order of the day. My private students have been less careful – I try to keep 1m apart, but it’s not always easy. The number of cases in our area is low, so I’m not too worried, but I’m still mostly avoiding crowded places, except when it’s unavoidable. Or it’s Noz. But then I wear a mask and try to remember to hand sanitize on leaving (but I’m not very good at remembering!)

Lord, this is a boring post.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve all dropped off into a snoring pile of readers like the cats above!

Dance a happy dance!!

This happens every year – there’s an organisation that collects data from self employed teachers. Who knows why? And I hate completing the form – partly because, although I have the spreadsheets in place, I neglect to fill them in every month, so every year I have to trawl through back documents to find the relevant information…

This year was worse because the email address I had been using was no longer “live” and I couldn’t find any way of changing it. I had contacted a “helpdesk” who told me to go to the Home page, and click on “Create my account”…Except when I went to what I assume was the home page they were talking about there was no “Create my account” button.

After about an hour of pointlessly clicking on various buttons and getting nowhere, I decided to get into the account using the old email address and password (which, thankfully, I had saved in a file!) Success!! I found that I didn’t have to go through creating new accounts, I could just modify the information once I got in there.

So the form was completed in about half an hour (after 2 hours of collecting the information!). And I can forget about it for another year!

But maybe this year I’ll fill in my spreadsheets to make it even easier!!

It would be nice if our 4 earned their keep this way!!

We’re free!!!

…except, of course, we’re not really!

Things have relaxed a little bit now – we can go up to 100 km away from our homes – but not into a different department. So even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could go to work, because Clermont is in a different departement. We don’t need to take our attestation with us if we go out for a walk. Mr FD is happy because he can cycle now, and we can go to shops that are further afield. We have masks, issued by the Mairie, to wear on public transport, and if shops demand it. My language schools are open for business.

BUT

I’m not going anywhere!

My students have agreed that they’re not going anywhere.

Having seen a rise in deaths & infections in Germany, where they are much more organised and in a better state than France, I’m not taking any risks. I’m still teaching from home, not going out except to shop, and continuing to disinfect stuff that comes into the house.

I saw Mr Johnson on TV in the UK. Good grief! Talk about confusing.

The information given in France wasn’t very clear, but at least we’ve got some sort of advice, which is better than the rather confused speech given by the PM of the UK, which the three leaders of Scotland, Wales and N Ireland all disagreed with.

 

Good luck with that.

 

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!

 

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.

Aren’t I a silly Billy?!

I hurried over from one lesson to another, ate my lunch quite quickly (now have indigestion) and waited for my new student to arrive.

And waited.

After 10 minutes I thought I’d just check…

I looked on the sheet giving the time of his lesson. Yes, it was 13.30.

I looked at the date he was starting his lessons. Was it today?…oh, no it wasn’t. I’m only three weeks early!!!

Hey ho.

The end of an era

When we moved here in 2005, I started off not working. That was nice. I found ways of filling my time, including writing a novel (which hasn’t been published) but after a while – although Mr FD was working in London, (communting back and forth, one week in London, one week in France) and earning a good salary – I thought I should try to find work.

The Chambre de Commerce et Industrie (CCI) in Roanne had an education department, where workers could apply to take language classes, and so I contacted them to see if there was any work. I was interviewed, and told that there wasn’t much work, but they would let me know. A few months later I was contacted by a family who wanted English lessons for their 10 year old son, and 8 year old daughter. They’d asked at the CCI if they gave English lessons to young people, and, although the answer to that was no, the Director remembered that I had experience with young people so put the family in touch with me.

From that one family, I gained other students ( de la bouche à l’oreille, as they say in France – word of mouth) as friends of the Verchere family mentioned that Pierre Damien, or Emeline, was speaking good English in school.

Well, on Wednesday, I had my last lesson with Clément, the youngest child in the family. He is taking his Bac next week, and then planning on training to be an air steward. The family gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers:

It is absolutely gorgeous, with roses and peonies and other lovely blooms. Unfortunately our cats have a nasty habit of eating plants, and despite keeping it in its cellophane, the leaves were getting nibbled. So we passed it on to Louis and Odette to enjoy.

However, more precious than the flowers is the card that they gave me. With a photo of the three of them on the front:

they wrote a lovely message (I shall ignore the English faults!)

Dear Alison,

14 years! 14 years that every Wednesday afternoons, a lovely English woman visits us with her big bag full of papers, books and notebooks of all kinds. From the first day we met you, we believed in you, and in the progress we could make. We immediately develop a special feeling for you, for your adorable accent and your contagious good mood.

We talked, we laughed, we confided in you and we learned by your side, that’s why you’re now part of our family.

Thanks to you, we speak English well, and so we are very proud! We will miss you a lot, we thank you very much for everything you have given us and for your devotion.

We love you, we wish you all the best and we look forward to seeing you one day.

All the best,

Pierre-Damien, Emeline and Clément Verchere.

When I read it I cried! I shall certainly miss teaching them, as all three were serious and motivated students. Pierre-Damien is heading into his 4th year of medical studies, Emeline into her second year focussing on tourism, and, as I said, Clément plans on becoming an air steward.

I still have three young men to teach who are going into their last year at Lycée in September, plus another who will be going to Lycée next year – so next June I’ll be losing THREE students!!!!! I hope that there’ll be a bit of de la bouch à l’oreille-ing going on, as otherwise I’ll have practically no-one to teach in September 2020!

40ACTS2019::6:: CHOCOLATE TUESDAY

I think I use this LOL cat every year!!

PROMPT: We see it every year. Giving out free chocolate is an uncannily sure-fire way to inspire even more generosity and gratitude. So, hit the commuters in line at the station, the postman you only ever get thirty-second chats with, the students running between classes – free chocolate, everyone, everywhere.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:

One option today: buy a bag of chocolate bars, and joyfully distribute them everywhere you go!

****

It’s funny, everyone seems to love Chocolate Tuesday, but I’ve always felt uneasy about it – I wouldn’t accept chocolate from a complete stranger, or eat a chocolate bar I found lying around… But maybe I’m just a grumpy old bat. Anyway, in the spirit of Chocolate Tuesday, I called into Lidl on my way from my lesson to the office, where I had preparation to do. Happily I found Fair Trade mini- chocolate – bars, which fitted the bill perfectly, and a bunch of tulips for Claire (for yesterday’s act)

On arriving at Bonjour World, I set out the chocolate next to the coffee maker:

I helped myself to one, and left them there for students & staff. I think they were well received! They were very nice…I may have to get another box for myself!! (Is that in the spirit of Chocolate Tuesday?!)

 

I don’t think there was anything deeply spiritual or holy about the deliverance of chocolate, but I hope that the little label may have sparked an interest in a few people. I’m getting into tweeting a bit now as well! Oooh, get me!

 

UPDATE ON YESTERDAY’S CHALLENGE:

As I said I was working from home, so I found time (rather longer than I expected!) to make two cards, one for my Directors,

and one for my Head of English:

to say “Thank You” for what they do. I gave Claire a bunch of tulips too – she was very happy!!