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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.


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.

What’s in a name (Part 2)

Once again a very small rush for a couple of people interested in the domain name.

Why? Do they know something I don’t? One from the UK and the other called Bret with a gmail address so he could be anywhere, maybe the UK too.

Are up to something? They’ll get first refusal (for the second time since they have already refused it once in 2003, but hey, let’s not let that get in the way of business) and then I’ll go through the list one at a time.

What do you reckon it’s worth, then, this dot com?


What’s in a name?

I received an email from a guy in America who is interested in my domain name. He currently has another suffix added to boxclever.

Now, this is the third time that someone has written asking if I am interested in parting with the domain name. It’s not like it’s a magic word. I’ve seen it used in the press, often relating to boxing matches or a particularly fierce football encounter, but other than that I cannot see why it has interested three people on three continents.

And it got me thinking. Would I be prepared to part with it?

I wasn’t the first person to have I remember when I started my company that it wasn’t available. And then, in 2000 I was in an hotel in Los Angeles one evening idly browsing the web when I saw on that the name was available. I snapped it up on the spot. After all, I had a company called boxclever and was working internationally; it made sense.

Since then I have used the email address everywhere. I’ve been trying to think of what I would have to change if I surrendered the domain and thus the email address that goes with it. From MSN to Amazon, through to the GUA and Total France and back again to my current company. It would take forever and a day to modify everyhting and even then I’d be sure and miss out on a number of places.

Now, I also have a huge problem with And it’s not my fault.

In 2004 a UK TV rental company changed its name to boxclever. They have the suffix. Their IT department told staff at their headquarters that they had the .com address and created emails accordingly. They even printed up letter headed paper, compliment slips, invoices and so forth with the .com address. I don’t know how many people work for boxclever in the UK but it’s probably a few hundred. You can imagine how many emails I was getting each day [that they weren’t getting obviously] from angry customers as well as confidential accouting information.

But, there was this one git in London that must have signed up for every porno site in existence and signed up for the daily pic to be sent to his .com address. He’s probably annoyed that he never actually got anything in his inbox – it all came to me – and bloody well keeps coming, too, albeit rerouted to a generic “not know here” address.

All this adds to the dilemma. If I sell, whomever purchases it will think I’m so kind of sicko with a porno fetish for grannies and men with big willies!