All posts by sean

End of first weekend


Well we’ve managed our first weekend since the decision was made to split up. There were a couple of moments that were a bit too much for one and the other but overall it was done in the right spirit. We do, at least, speak about the separation when Audrey and Liam are not there to overhear.

We need to plan ahead and organize a variety of things and people to see.

To be honest living under the same roof is difficult and it might be that we take it in turns to spend a couple of days away from home to give the other a bit of peace. From experience I know that things can degenerate quickly under such conditions.

And yes, the question has been asked: the decision (from Carine’s part) is final!

More to follow.




And so, here we are.

Firstly, Happy New Year to one and all. I hope that 2015 brings you peace, health and happiness.

2015 is bringing me a separation from Carine.  After 15 years together she has decided that she would be happier on her own, or at least, without me. I wish her well.

Audrey and Liam took it much better than I thought they would.


It’ll be alright on the night. V1

This will definitely go down as one of the best.

French television: TF1. 23/07/2013 20h22

Just as William and Kate are coming out of the hospital doors,  where all the World’s cameras are pointing at the ‘happy couple’,  the French journaliste says:

“No. it’s a false alert; There is absolutely nothing happening here at the moment…”

When we suddenly hear in her earpiece:

“Turn the fuck around, stupid…”

Just brilliant.


The French Secondary School Experience. Part 4.

This is what really pisses me off about France.  And I think it illustrates why it’s still more of an agricultural country than a manufacturing one: whatever they might want us to think.

The end of the school year is next Friday, the 5th of July.

Tuesday this week Audrey finished at 11 in the morning. Wednesday she didn’t even go in because her first two teachers were busy doing union things. Yesterday and today all the teachers were busy doing everything in the world other than what our [extremely high and going up again]taxes pay them to do so there was no school.

Do you want to know what next week’s agenda is?


What fun.

In four years’ time Audrey will take the Brevet exam – like a GCSE if you like. On last night’s 8 o’clock news that was an item about high unemployment in France and the difficulty that a lot of people are having in these crisis days we’re experiencing. I thought that it was important that Audrey watched the news item simply because we’re at the stage where we enforcing homework and trying to explain how important it is that she still put’s the effort into doing it.

And the school effectively shuts ten days earlier than it should do. Crazy!

Anyway, we had the end of school report and it was very good reading as usual for Audrey. (We’ll come onto Liam a bit later on). Progress in all her classes, especially in Art & Plastic where she had a low note last year: 4th in the class as it stands so we’re quite happy. 18/20 in Maths, French, English, History & Geography and 16/20 for the rest.
And what about the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher? Well she’s still there and still doesn’t give a toss. I had dinner with the headmaster last weekend and he’s retiring next Friday. I gave him a nudge and a wink to see if he could get her into the proper English teacher’s class next year.  He said that he couldn’t really interfere with his replacements plans. He winked back. We’ll see in September.


Liam, the little git, is averaging 4/10 so he’s in for a spanking (literally speaking for any of you ‘Don’t hit that child brigade’) but he’s only at junior school so it’s not too bad.

I’m on holiday as of next Friday so I’m going to catch up on here and add some of the holiday photos from Vichy with mum and dad.



The French Secondary School Experience. Part 3

Or, How to get your daughter into trouble without really trying.

At the beginning of the school year we were given a list of material to purchase for the school year: pencil case, ruler, protractor, crayons and so on. Equally asked for was the English exercise book for first years.

I’m not a fan of buying books for the school. We all pay enough taxes to cover the cost of school books and I believe that it should be the school’s responsibility and not the parents to buy the school books.  Anyway we went onto Amazon and bought the book. As we were in September 2012 Amazon sold us the 2012 edition.

When we went to see the various teachers at the end of October we sat in Audrey’s registration class and throughout the evening the different teachers came to us and gave us a summary of the first term. When it came to the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher’s turn it transpired that we were not the only ones that had the 2012 version of the book: the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher had the 2009 version. (Can you see where this is going?).

We all said that this was a pretty stupid arrangement but the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher wasn’t buying it (which was ok for me as I wasn’t really selling it).

When the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) teacher asked that for homework the kids do; for example, exercises 6 & 7 on page 32 these coordinates apply only to the 2009 book, not the 2012 book where there are no exercises 6 & 7  on page 32.

Audrey started getting 0/20 for the homework. As were other kids.

So Carine wrote her a letter that she stapled into the correspondence book. There was no reply. Apparently the (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher said to Audrey that she couldn’t understand a word that Carine has written so didn’t bother replying.

So I entered the game…as I would…in my way….which wasn’t a particularly a good idea!

I wrote a letter. Actually I typed a letter.

In English.

To a French (very near retirement age so doesn’t really give a toss how it’s all thrown together) English teacher.

It didn’t go down well! I didn’t save it on the computer so I can’t copy and paste it here but I basically said that it shouldn’t be Audrey’s fault that in the year 2012 she purchases a 2012 edition of the school book that is three years newer than that of her teacher’s.

She again got 0/20.



The French Secondary School Experience. Part 2.

Both Audrey and Liam have what they call a ‘cahier de correspondence’ from their respective schools. Basically, it’s a small book that enables teachers and parents to communicate in a simple manner. We need to sign it on a regular basis, maybe twice a week, and so we keep up with what is happening and when.

A couple of weeks ago Audrey’s teacher asked if one or both of the parents would like to attend a school lunch and if so which day would be preferable.  I volunteered for a Friday which was a stupid choice in a catholic country as that would mean fish as the main course and I don’t like fish too much.

Anyway. Leading up to the Friday Audrey was all excited over the fact that I would be having lunch with her and her school friends. The actually morning however she was a bit more reluctant: she was pretty sure that others in the school would laugh at my ears. (Now as an aside my ears have become a focal point of the family at the moment. When we went to the zoo and saw all the different animals, my ears would invariable come up in the conversation about elephants {no surprise there} but equally giraffes, bison wolves {no I didn’t get it either} hippopotami {?} etc.]

As it turned out the school dinner was excellent. After the disgraceful scenario at the middle school [if you remember it was the day before left-overs from the other school heated up for a second time and served to Audrey and her mates in the new school] it was good to have a decent school meal. Audrey had amassed all her friends to eat with us as parents get to jump the queue and get to eat first. Starter of fresh salad or fresh quiche followed by a choice of battered or grilled fish with a side order of freshly made ratatouille. Dessert was a choice of fresh fruit, cheese or yoghurt.  There was also fresh bread and jugs of water. It made me think of the Jamie Oliver programme where he tried to have better quality in schools and how lucky we are in comparison : no ‘rubbish’ food in this canteen [or at least not on the day that I went].

In France there are no teachers patrolling the refectory but public servants who look after both the canteen and the playground. They, too, did a very good job of keeping order and getting the different services in and out of the canteen in time for the next group to come and eat.

All in all it was good fun to go back to the school canteen after so many years and both Audrey and her friends enjoyed my being there.


Kitchen Ceiling – last chance

The kitchen ceiling has always been a problem. When we moved in in 2003 it was covered with wooden planks and there was a sort of outdoor render on the walls.

We took the planks of wood off and could see why they guy had put them up to begin with. It looked as though the builder hadn’t really finished the ceiling and he had put on some sort of greasy rendering that couldn’t be painted over. Over the years we’ve tried to paint, put up wallpaper, paint, put up another type of wallpaper and nothing sticks – everything we’ve tried has come ‘unstuck’!

So Rudy’s back with us for another week. We came up with an idea as to lower one part of the ceiling without it looking like an after-thought and here are the fruits of three days labor:

Taken from the sofa
Sunday night before the Tuesday start


So, as you can see there is no visible join between the kitchen and the old dining room.

Tuesday Evening :

Tuesday Night 1st day
Tuesday Night 1st day.


Rudy’s fixed straight onto the ceiling joists so it’s pretty solid.


Friday night Day 4:

Friday night and it's looking about right
Friday night and it’s looking about right

In all there will be 7 spots on two different switches: two above the bar area and the other five above the sink, oven and one in the centre of the kitchen. According to Rudy if we were to have all 7 at the same time it would like like the “Palais de Verseilles” (Think Ally Pally)


More to follow


The French Secondary School Experience. Part 1.

I had my first taste of France’s secondary school system last night with the very first parent/teacher evening for Audrey. It wasn’t a good experience.

My secondary school experience started in 1978 and to give that some sense of meaning not only is that 34 years ago but the Sony Walkman hadn’t even been built at that time whereas today we have iPods and music on the go with our mobile phones.  One has to accept that over time things have changed and not only that this is a very different culture from the one in which I grew up.

I never imagined that any potential child of mine would experience any other form of secondary school experience from the one that I had had. But here we are in the South of France and not suburban Surrey in the UK so everything is different.

The first problem is the weight of the school-bag:  it is way too heavy. Apparently this is the child’s fault as they are afraid to be scolded by one of the teachers if they forget to bring in a certain item. It is, apparently, up to the parents to check that the child only has the required materiel for that particular day. OK, this is a fair point. So I checked Audrey’s bag contained only what was required for today; the bag is still way too heavy for an 11 year old.

Secondly there are no lockers available, or very few, so not only is the school-bag way too heavy she has to lug it around during break time and lunchtime. The school principal said last night that locker priority is given to first year students but 90% of parents put their hands up last night when asked if their child had a locker problem. If priority is given to first years, and we have a 9:1 problem ratio, then heaven only knows how many 2nd, 3rd and 4th years have a locker problem. They are too expensive to replace, allegedly. So, it would seem that it is better that the child has a bad back than replace expensive lockers.

Why are there so few lockers? Vandalism, apparently. Audrey has a biometric hand and retinal scanner to get into the school but they can’t put a security camera up to see who vandalises the lockers. And what I find even stranger is that all the lockers are in the same place. At my school first and second year lockers where down by the first year toilets whilst 4th and 5th year lockers were elsewhere. That prevented ‘bigger’ kids wreaking havoc on the ‘smaller’ ones which is a common problem here in France according to the principal. (You don’t say!)

More to follow.