Walk like an Egyptian

One of my great pleasures, and a way I can while away many a long hour, is browsing other people’s blogs. There are many I enjoy reading, even if I don’t often comment on them. Some are people who live in France, others have commented on my blog, others are from people living a very different lifestyle to mine, some are people walking their Christian pilgrimage, others are of different or no faith. Some I visit regularly, others I only pop into occasionally.

One blog I enjoy from time to time is Multicoloured Madnesswritten by a Christian mum, who homeschools her children, and has a husband with MS. I’m not sure where in the UK they live, but I enjoy reading what the family gets up to.  The tag-line is “Faith, Family, Food, Fun” – which just about sums up the content, recounting the gentle rhythms of life in this family.

In one post recently, San writes about some of the things her daughter has been doing as part of her homeschooling project on Ancient Egypt. One of these was making an Egyptian death mask.

This reminded me of when I was teaching Year 5s and we too were studying the Ancient Egyptians. We too made death masks. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy plastic or polystyrene white masks at a reasonable price, which can be painted quite easily, but my colleague and I were working on a limited budget, some 20 years ago. We could have gone with moulding papier maché, but that takes forever to dry, and it often seemed to go mouldy. So we decided to use plaster of paris infused bandages, which dried relatively quickly.

Having received permission from parents,  we set to work over a period of a few weeks’ art lessons. We explained to the children that  their faces would be greased with vaseline, to stop the mask from sticking, and then the teacher would layer the bandages over their face; of course, tempted though we might have been, we would not block up the nostrils, so they would be able to breathe. They would have to sit very still for ten minutes, while the plaster set, and then the mask would be removed. Then they could design the head-dress, the collar, and the “beard” which would then be placed around their own, individual death mask, which had been spray painted gold. All very exciting.

This school in Essex has obviously had the same idea

“Now, don’t worry,” we said to the children. “You’ll be able to breathe at all times. You’re in no danger. But you must sit very still for about 10 minutes, and you mustn’t try to talk, because that will crack the plaster of Paris. However, if it is really, truly too scary for you, and you are starting to panic, then wave your arms in the air and we’ll remove the mask immediately.”

Everyone agreed that this signal was only in an emergency, and the messy job of plastering over faces commenced. It was a bit like a production line: one child smeared vaseline over another child’s face, I layered the bandages over the face, they child waited for 10/15 minutes, my colleague removed the mask, and meanwhile the other children worked on their collars/head dresses, cutting out and sticking shiny paper for jewels and so forth. Everything was going well, with no incidents, until suddenly we heard frantic squeaking and a boy – who we shall name Gary (because that was his name) – started waving his arms manically. PANIC STATIONS!

I rushed over to him, and ripped the barely set mask from his face, ruining all the careful smoothing of bandages.

“Gosh,” he said, with a big grin, “I was getting a bit hot in there. It’s OK now though.”

I looked at the ruined mess of bandages and plaster, and refrained from screaming. Just. Tempting though it was to hand him the mess and say “That’s your mask” I think we did (finally) allow him to have another go, but we made him wait till the end, and told him that we would ignore any hand waving!!

Ah, happy days….


As a side note, Gary was the same child who, on a visit to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, came rushing over to me.

“Miss! Miss!” he yelled, “The llama just spat at me!”

I paused, not quite knowing what to say. But Gary continued: “It’s okay though. I just spat back!”




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.




Ready for the Off!

So, I’m off to the UK tomorrow. Leaving home at 8 am, my ferry is booked for 19.50 – leaving me lots of time to get lost in Paris. Eeep. I’m “doing” BlablaCar, which I’ve never done before. Picking up 3 women in Clermont Ferrand, taking one to Beauvais airport, where I’m picking up another passenger. She’s going to Calais, while the other two are being dropped off at Amiens. Hopefully, they’ll understand that I’m not very talkative in the car (marked myself as “Bla” in my profile) and that I’m actually very nervous about this drive. It’s the first time I’ve driven this route round/through Paris, so I’m worried about losing my way! Still, with GPS and Mr FD printing out all the instructions for the route I should probably be fine.

Then when I arrive in Calais I’ve booked a seat in the Club Lounge – which gives a complementary glass of wine & nibbles. No fighting the hoi polloi in the bar for me, thank you very much! I’m spending Monday & Tuesday nights at MiL’s (she lives near Dover), and then driving to Southampton, via Guildford, to meet a friend for lunch and then stay with another friend on Wednesday night. Then it’s off to Newbury!

Unfortunately, we’ve recently heard that numbers are way down – possibly to do with the recent terror attacks – so the “Dream Team” of 2015 will be reduced to two members instead of 3. Hawa will be teaching in Teens, and I’ve been asked to teach the low level Kids. Not at all my forte, nor what I’d done all my planning for, but needs must. David, the other teacher, is the Head of Kids, so he’ll have admin to do, as well as having other hats to wear, so I’ve got to be as flexible as possible. No whinging or whining. Hopefully Hawa will be able to advise, as she is the usual low level teacher, even though she’s not in Kids. Also, she will definitely be joining us for our Kids Dept Staff Meeting in the pub. It won’t be the same without her!!

Because of the low numbers, it may actually be that I won’t be employed for the whole 4 weeks. It’s not a huge problem if that’s the case – I’ll just go up and see mum, which I won’t otherwise have the opportunity to do.

So there you are! I think everything is packed (except my picnic for tomorrow) I just need to get it in the car now, & hope there’s room for my passengers’ bags too. I have pared down the teaching resources that I normally take – as most of them are for higher level students. I shall be searching t’internet frantically on Friday & Saturday planning for the week ahead!

I will try to pop in and post something at some time, but no promises are being made!

Wot I did on my Holidays

Well…not exactly…as last week wasn’t really a holiday, but I thought I could give you an insight into the fun, fun, FUN things I do during the week. This week has been school holidays, so I haven’t been quite as busy as usual.

SO…Let’s see what I remember!

MONDAY: In the morning I prepared lessons which I had in the afternoon. Usually, I have a phone lesson too, but Florence had cancelled this, as she would be on the train at the time of her lesson. I left the house at 11.00 to drive 45 minutes to Montbrison for my first lesson.

In the middle of the lesson with Evelyne, my other student phoned to cancel his lesson. Usually I should charge for lerssons cancelled at short notice (& if it happens again, I will) but he often has meetings himself at short notice, which means it’s a little difficult to plan. However, he needs to understand that a regular rhythm of lessons is better than continually cancelling. Which, to be fair, I think he does. After the lesson I had my sandwich lunch in the office where I gave the lesson, and read a bit on my Kindle app on the phone. A fairly rubbishy book which I pick up and leave at regular intervals.

Then I went to Super U to do the week’s shopping. It’s not a big hypermarket, but generally has most of what I want. It’s not as cheap as going to Lidl, but there isn’t a Lidl handy, so I go to Super U.After shopping I went for a walk – I usually have about 45 minutes when I’ve finished and before the lesson (that had been cancelled) so I try to go for a walk. Today – even though I didn’t have the lesson planned – I decided to walk along the Canal du Forez – I’d passed the lockgates, and a sign for it on my way to the supermarket.

In fact, what I’d passed were redundant sluice gates, behind which was nothing more than a huge drainage ditch with a trickle of muddy water at the bottom. And , in fact, that’s what it is – a drainage ditch, rather than a proper canal. Still, I walked along it for a while, until I reached a part that was fenced off, so I turned round and walked back to the car.

Mr FD wasn’t home when I got back – he’d expected me later – so I hoiked the shopping upstairs, and put it away. Then I started cooking dinner – which was to have been risotto, but turned out to be a one-pot rice-y meal, as I didn’t have any risotto rice. It was fine. We watched TV, (SS-GB – which was okay) and went to bed.

TUESDAY: No lessons today, so I planned the lessons for the next couple of days, and then spent a long time sorting out paperwork from finished courses. I always seem to photocopy more than I need, and then have to decide whether to keep the pages or recycle them. I feel guilty about wasting the paper but my shelves are full-to-almost-bursting of files of various exercises. I suppose I should try to wait until nearer the time to see if it’s actually necessary to photocopy the pages or not, rather than do a larger batch at the beginning of a course.

I did a little craft work – nearly finished the Desiderata project – and made a few more Ninja Notes, in preparation for 40 Acts. In fact, I’ve already started leaving Ninja Notes around! Some in shopping trolleys and the public loo at Super U, some dropped in random letterboxes…

Dinner was a bit “meh” – there wasn’t a lot of flavour to it – and then, yes, we watched TV again. Our evenings are rather same-y, I’m afraid! I knit my wobbley blankets for cats, and we watch TV. We watched  “Further back in Time for Dinner” which we enjoy very much.It’s the last one in the series next week, which is a shame. WEDNESDAY: Down to Roanne for my one lesson of the day – usually on Wednesday I have lessons solidly from 10.30 to 6.30 with half an hour for lunch & travelling. As I said, this week is school holidays, so I only had my 10.30 – 12.00 lesson. It went well, as we talked about British food and French food, and the differences that we have seen through our lives. Yvalda wants to improve her fluency and understanding, so we don’t do too much grammar.

After a sandwich lunch, eaten in the car overlooking the marina, I went to Noz.

Quite a good haul – mostly breakfast cereal at reduced prices, but also some wool (wobbly blankets), 3L of wine for 4.50€, some other assorted jars, and cat food to take to the SPA. I went to the SPA afterwards to deliver the blankets and food, and to spend time stroking kitties. I called in at a new restaurant “Entre Deux O” to book for lunch next weekIt’s a new, floating restaurant in the Port. I’m meeting my Friend Mij there for lunch next Wednesday.

Dinner was the enchilladas – which were delicious, but I think I have caught Mr FD’s “gastro” bug, as I am not feeling great, and couldn’t manage them all. Our TV viewing included “Who Do You Think You Are” which was interesting.

THURSDAY: Feeling a bit grim, I was glad I didn’t have any lessons. I was planning on doing some cleaning and stuff, but couldn’t be arsed. So I flimmed and flammed and faffed about on the computer all morning. I did finish writing the lesson sheets for a book, “Football Forever”. With the children/ young adults that I teach, I tend to work with books (Oxford Dominoes, usually, which are written for learners of English) For every chapter I write questions to answer, T/F sentences (which they have to justify by finding the right part of the text) and then either some grammar work, or a writing task. I tend towards the writing task as this is a part of their Baccalaureat, (never too early to start preparing) and I think that they probably don’t get that much practice in their school lessons. Of course, each lesson starts with a good 15 minutes of conversation first.

“Football Forever” was chosen for my youngest student, who is in 4 ème, which makes him 10, or 11, I think. He loves football, so this seemed like a good way to engage him. He does seem to be enjoying it – even though we both know that Tino, the hero, is going to score the winning goal which wins his team the Cup. Of course he is!

I thought about going for a walk, but I have another eczema-related blister on my foot (a couple of centimetres wide) which means walking is painful again. Sigh.

The gnocchi were nice, as even though I felt grotty, I was still ravenously hungry!  And we watched “The Big Bang Theory”.

FRIDAY: Up early, as I had 4 hours of lessons in Clermont today. They went well(ish). The first lesson is with three higher level students, who don’t talk very much, and the other with three lower level students who don’t shut up. I know which I prefer! (The second, in case you’re wondering!) The second lesson got mildly anarchic, but was great fun.

I had lunch back at the office of the language school I work for & chatted to my colleagues

We don’t get to see each other very often, so it’s good to catch up, and to eat KitKats (starting to feel better now!) After lunch, I went to the local Bio store to pick up some wooden orange boxes – they are free to take away & I need to repair the Cat Houses that I made for the Poor Cats last year. (scroll down to find out about the Cat Houses) They seem to enjoy sitting on top of the Houses, but as they are made of cardboard boxes, they are starting to collapse. I’m planning on trying to recycle the saggy Houses plus orange boxes to strengthen them. I don’t want to just throw the old Houses away, as they have polystyrene tiles in them too, which cost a bit, so I’d rather not waste that. I’m going to collect one of the houses this afternoon, to explore what I can do.


After collecting the boxes, I called in at Zodio to buy some blue dye (to dye an old, cream-but-going-a-bit-stained duvet cover) That’s in the machine now – although the dye said it was for polyester-cotton mix I’m not sure how well it’s taken. It’s looking a bit grey rather than “bleu marin” After Zodio it was Ikea for a new nonstick frying pan, and some bathmats.

UPDATE ON THE DYEING: The colour turned out very nicely on both the sheet and the duvet cover – the sheet dyeing slightly lighter than the cover. BUT despite following instructions and dampening & loosely shaking out the fabric before putting it in the machine parts of the cover & sheet look as though they have been very badly tie-dyed. I think that when I put the fabric in it was too wet and soaked up the dye powder very quickly which then didn’t get dispersed during the process. It’s not a huge problem – I can either get a darker dye powder (maybe navy blue) & try again, or just abandon it as a project. It was an old cover which we hadn’t used for many a long year (due to the discolouration) so I haven’t lost much (except the cost of the dye.)

Home again (jiggety-jig) and dinner was cooked. It was Aubergine not-meatballs, pasta and sauce. The not-meatballs collapsed so it was all a bit of a mish-mash, but it was tasty enough. We watched “Death in Paradise”, plus “Last Tango in Halifax” recorded over Christmas! Mr FD missed the last part of this though, as he fell asleep!

And now we are Saturday morning! Lie in (due to cats waking me at 5.00 am), footling, Post Office visit, blog writing and dyeing of duvet covers. This afternoon will be making veal casserole (in slow cooker), collecting meat from Carrefour for the Poor Cats’ dinner, feeding the Poor Cats – and possibly making biscuits for the butcher at Carrefour to say “Thank You” for the meat bits.

I’m not cleaning much because I think as Mr FD isn’t working at the moment, he has time to do the cleaning. When he is working (if he gets another job. Fingers crossed) then we can go back to sharing the work. When that’s the case, I do some cleaning during the week when I haven’t got lessons, plus some at the weekend – but as I do the shopping & cooking too, I kind of feel Mr FD should do a bit. That said, he IS in charge of dealing with the fire (cleaning that, bringing up bags of pellets etc), and does the cat trays a bit more often than I do. So it probably balances out.

ANYWAY. That’s Wot I Did On My Holidays.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the film “What we did on our holidays” I heartily recommend it

It’s a very funny, moving film (with David Tennant in. Happy face) about a family holiday to see Grandfather up in Scotland. Some bad language in the trailer, but worth a watch all the same.

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!