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!!

40ACTS2019::5::BLESS THE BOSS

PROMPT: Today, we’re turning our generosity loose on bosses, managers, pastors and head teachers. Our culture doesn’t always bless upwards. But generosity goes all ways. We often only think to focus our generosity on those in dire straits, but when we bless upwards, we discover something that changes us, too.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:

Green: Thank the boss. Take a moment to start the work day letting them know they’re appreciated by those around them (specifically you).

Amber: Leave them a nice note – and talk to one of their friends and see what kind of gift card you could slip in there too.

Red: Take them out for a meal, bake them a cake, or give them a voucher for a meal.

***

We have new bosses in the language school where I work. My old boss was great: he had started the business himself and it was his “baby”; it had a real family feel about it, and although he had to make me redundant at one point, he obviously felt bad about doing so! He re-employed me on a contract basis as soon as possible afterwards. He trusted us teachers to get on with what we were good at, with minimal interference. But towards his retirement, he seemed to lose some interest, and things started to get dropped…Last year, the business was bought by a young, dynamic couple, ambitious and with money to spend… They have introduced new methods of teaching, want to use technology more, and are in the process of creating and setting up a new online learning platform. It’s a bit scary for me, as a bit of a Luddite! I would have been happy pootling on for another 7 or so years to my retirement as I had been doing under the last director. Still, onward and upward!

Today I’m working from home, so I won’t be going in to the office; tomorrow I will probably be popping in to do some preparation for the week ahead – so what can I do? I think I’ll prepare a card for Melissa and Tomas, our new directors, just to say Thank You…but I would like to do a bit more for my Head of English, who seems to be becoming more frazzled, as she is asked to do more and more. There’s nothing I can do to take the workload off her shoulders, but I can at least let her know that she is appreciated! So I will go from my lessons to the office via a supermarket and maybe buy a plant or some chocolates to give to her, together with another card.

I won’t be providing the Kitteh as well though!

UPDATE ON THE LAST CHALLENGE: Not much to say, really… I’m going to start saving up my 5€ which will probably go to PC4R or Lend With Care – but may be used for other items if necessary. My Church group enjoyed this one, posting I really like this Act 4!….. reminds me of a Lent activity we did in Canada back when our children were growing up….place a container at the dinner table and everyone put the day’s change or another amount in the container at dinnertime , to then give at the close of Lent and  This reminds me of many years ago when good friends told us of their ‘Lord’s Pot’, which was money put aside for when someone needed something or e.g. some hospitality was needed but when money is tight. Arguably, it’s not quite in the spirit of sacrifice – but it has served us (and more importantly I hope – others) well over the years.

This LOL cats doesn’t really fit, but I really enjoyed it!

 

Aren’t I lucky?!

I had a company cancel 4 hours of lessons with only 5 hours before I was due to start. That means Hard luck for them, they’ll have to pay for them, but good for me as it means I got to come home at lunchtime, rather than at 17.00; thus missing driving in the dark and the snow that has been forecast.

It’s grey and mibsy and cold so I’ll “do a Lesley” in a while. Mr FD was going to be on cooking duty, but I’ll let him off. This is (near enough) what we’re having: Pavé de cabillaud en croute des herbes but I’m using fresh breadcrumbs rather than packet croutons, & I’m just using parsley with a few dried herbs. We’ll have it with potato wedges, sweet potato wedges, tomato sauce, and green beans. Also I’m using pollock, instead of cod. But apart from that….!!

Other than that, we’re pootling on…

First day back…

 

Ah – La Rentrée, a tradition in France that is well explained by this blog post – so much so, that I won’t even try to explain it, but urge you to go across to read the article – but basically, it is the return to school, and also the return to work that takes place in September.

For me, I have had a late rentrée, as my “Arret du Travail” was until the end of September. But yesterday, I started work.

Wednesday is the day that I go to Roanne, and work with (mostly) young people from collège (middle school) and Lycée (6th form college equivalent) I finished with three students last year, as they took their BAC and all did well. Hannah and Inès are now studying medicine in St Etienne, and Emeline is studying Tourism in Lyon. I did, however, pick up one new student – the sister of Inès, and Maelan (who I’m still teaching) – but decided to try to space them out a little better so I had more than 10 minutes (after my drive from one student to another) to eat my lunch!

My timetable is now:

10.15-11.45 Yvalda – an older lady who is an Estate Agent. She wants to improve English as she’s a member of Zonta International, a ladies’ group, originating from the US. The group meetings are held in English.

11.45 – 12.30 Travel & lunch. This longer pause gives me about 25 minutes or so to eat, depending on the traffic between Yvalda’s apartment and the car park where I eat lunch. Much better!

12.30-13.15 Valentin – he’s in Première – the penultimate year of Lycée. He is concentrating on the sciences, but thinking about engineering as a career choice.

I then scurry across the road to…

13.20 – 14.20 I teach Adam, who is in Troisième, the last year of Collège. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw him – in the 9 months since I last taught him he has shot up, and is now definitely a young man! I actually mistook him for his older brother!

14.20-15.20 Yannis is Adam’s older brother, and Hannah (medicine in St Etienne)’s younger brother. He’s also  in Première and  concentrating on the sciences. He, Valentin and Maelan (see below) are all good friends.

I then have 5 minutes to drive to…

15.25 – 16.10 Maelan. Another one who’s in Première and concentrating on the sciences! He is the younger brother of Inès.

16.10 – 16.55 Aya – she is my new student. She’s in CM2, which is the last year of Primary School. She has been desperate to take English lessons with me for the last year, so is very keen and motivated at the moment!

Hop back in the car for a ten minute drive to…

17.05 – 17.50 Clément – he’s the younger brother of Emeline (Tourism in Lyon) and is now the student I’ve been teaching longest. I started teaching Pierre Damien, his older brother, back in about 2010, and gradually started teaching Emeline and then Clément. P-D is now also doing medicine in St Etienne. He’s been there for 3 years, and, I believe, is doing well.

That would be when I finished – an hour earlier than last year – but Valentin’s mum has asked if she can have lessons too, so from next week I will

hop back in the car for a ten minute drive back to…

18.00 – 18.45 Marie-Pierre. I can’t tell you anything about her yet!!

It will take me about 30 minutes to drive home, so I should be back by 19.30. Mr FD will be tasked with preparing dinner, and, I hope, clearing up afterwards. Although we usually have a who-cooks-doesn’t-clear-up rule, the fact that I’ll’ve been out working all day while he’s been at home makes me feel he should do the clearing up too!

Next week I’m also starting with more lessons in Clermont – Tuesday afternoon for three hours, and Thursday afternoon for four. So again, Mr FD will be cooking those days, although I might bring myself to clear up then! It won’t have been such a long day.

Then a fortnight later I’ll have another three hours on Monday morning, so my working week is starting to get a bit fuller. I hope that I’ll be able to pick up some more hours on Tuesday and Thursday morning, but it depends what demands for training come in to ILS. Still, I’ll be working a 20-hour week, which isn’t bad, especially if you factor in the travel – an hour each way to Clermont, and 30 minutes to Roanne.

I’m happy to say I wasn’t too tired when I got back home. I think that I am fully recovered. I saw the Radiographer on Monday, who thinks that everything is doing what it should be. My breast is still sensitive and a little sore, and it’s uncomfortable raising my right arm to its full stretch, but he didn’t seem concerned by either of these things. I need a mammogram before seeing the oncologist in January (but I’m putting that off till December, as my breast is still a bit painful), and I also have to see the surgeon…After which I just have yearly check ups. My homonetherapy is fine – I have a few side effects, but nothing too dire. Some joint pain, a few extra-hot flushes, and some extreme skin dryness in various places: I can cope with this. I haven’t noticed any real psychological effects, such as anxiety, or mood swings, but they may yet arrive!! Of course, Mr FD might say the mood swings have already arrived!!