Tuesday, 15 March 2011


I've become really terrible at keeping all this updated with my happenings, but I guess I'm too busy doing things and enjoying life to sit around writing about it. Or the more probable excuse of spending my time at my computer doing more worthwhile things, like checking facebook. Oops.

So what have I been up to since mid January I hear you ask, well that is indeed a very good question. On January 21st the assistant girls packed up and headed to Amsterdam for a few days. This included a very moving walk around Anne Frank's house a very fun stumble round the Bols cocktail museum ending in a free cocktail of choice and two free shots. We went ice skating, danced to Punjabi MC and I managed to leave my entire makeup and toilet bag at the hotel. It was a wonderful weekend, with wonderful company. 

I managed to return from Amsterdam with some form of Dutch plague, so marched myself to the doctors on the following Monday. I was given a giant prescription and a note giving me the rest of the week off work. Having spent the week resting I felt better by the time Saturday (my birthday) came around. 

Both Rowan and my lovely Sheffield friend Alice came to help me celebrate and to my absolute shock/delight we stumbled upon my entire (almost) family sitting in the same restaurant we were going to for lunch. Coincidence? That sneaky Rowan Brunswick. So we had a wonderful lunch and day in Lille with my parents, grandparents and little brother then went home to prepare for the evening's party. Lots of Lille friends came and we danced, drank and had a lovely time. I was so sad to see my family leave on the Monday, as it had been so lovely to see them all again and I knew I wouldn't see them again until I leave France for good.

Everything in Lille plodded along after that weekend. School was fine, the weather was fine and my year abroad project was anything but fine.

Then we get to the winter break. Us lucky teaching assistants in France got a cheeky two week holiday from the 18th February to the 7th March. I decided to use this time wisely to get out and see some more of Europe. So my epic fortnight of travel begin with a 3am wake up call to get to Charleroi airport to fly to Turin. My friend Rachel from the Lakes works there as an assistant so agreed to take me up into the mountains for a few days to ski. I am pleased to say that after 6 or 7 years of not skiing, I still have my skillz :) Despite a poorly leg due to bad ski boots I had a cracking time. We went to two different resorts and skied some great slopes. I'd been really lucky because it had snowed just before I arrived and the slopes were parfait! 

After a quick trip to Brussells I came back to Lille ready to head off AGAIN to Prague with the assistants. Lots of beer was involved and Hana and I became members of the Prague drinking team :) We went on a boat ride along the river and were given lots of gluhwein. The Charles Bridge was pretty spectacular especially discovering that Kanye had filmed a video on it, eh Hana? Downsides to the trip? The freezing weather, despite running like a mad person missing the Astronomical Clock and Alice being ill :( Highlights? The castle and stumbling across a Jacobean Ruff..... brought back so many memories.

So, a week of holidays had passed, another to go. Rowan's uncle was kind enough to let us stay in one of his flats in Neckagamund near Heidelberg for a few nights. It was so nice, really modern and well done up and it was, of course, in a beautiful location. We met up with Anna and Sean in Heidelberg and braved the Bergbahn up to the castle and beyond. I'm not going to lie, I was scared. We went on a lovely bike ride, ate lots of schnitzel and drank plenty of beer. It was a lovely relaxing few days.

For the last few days of my holidays were spent in Luxembourg city with Rowan. He booked us into a hotel for part of my birthday present which was a lovely surprise. We arrived to discover our room had been upgraded and then headed out for a walk around the park. We found the tourist office and went in to see what was going on in the city that weekend. Rowan was close to persuading me to go and see Stromae, of alors on danse fame, until we saw the 30Euro price tag, we opted for a night of tapas instead. The following day we lazily strolled around the market, looked around a museum and wandered around some ruins. Then went to a yummy mexican restaurant and enjoyed cocktails and burritos!

So now I'm back in Lille and counting down those last 5 weeks until I get to see all my lovely English lot again! In the mean time I have a project to do and a visit from miss Hannah Willis to look forward to.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Winter Highlights

So I've become awfully negligent over the past few weeks due to Christmas stuff taking priority. I feel like so much has happened that it'd be awfully boring (and time consuming) to write it all. So here are a few of my highlights from the past few weeks.

1.Pre-Christmas meet up- so all the assistant girls did a Secret Santa swapping/last supper type night which was so much fun. We went to a nice bar to swap our pressies. I was literally so chuffed when I opened my shisha pipe from Flora.... she knows me so well! Then we went out for a posh burger. Feeling rather homesick I ordered the "British Burger", which included cheddar cheese and actual bacon. Yum! it was a very nice send off to what had been a very good term with some excellent people.

2. Christmas- going home for Christmas was excellent, I was so looking forward to it and felt like I was seriously in need of a well-deserved break. France had just started to stress me out so much due to the numerous problems I'd been having. It was great to get home and see all the family- including the infamous G&G. Christmas day was great, we had a bit of a houseful as Nick and the family came to stay so I was on babysitting duty a lot of the time. Everyone liked their French themed Christmas presents and having all put on our Christmas best we headed to the pub. Mulled wine was flowing, and it was lovely to be in a room full of familiar faces, but not so lovely answering the "how's everything in France?" question for the 20th time! My mother outdid herself once again with Christmas dinner and I was so stuffed that I had to join the rest of them in the living for a nap in front of the fire.

3. New Year- Okay so this isn't exactly a highlight, but I felt it was be worth noting. I was quite ill over NY so spent most of the time lying on the sofa looking after the children. I guess I caught the bug, as both my sister and my dad were under the weather too. I really didn't feel great and then began to dread the drive back to France on the 2nd. So dosing up on paracetamol I headed down to pick up Hannah for our drive back to Lille ready to start work on the 3rd (URGHH!)

4. Catch Ups- Since getting back to Lille there have been lots of excellent catch ups with all the girls, we went for a nice meal in an old brothel when we were all back and then went ice skating. I didn't manage to fall on my bum as I predicted I would and I actually had a great time! Really want to go again now. We also had an excellent soirée chez Emily last night, it was really good to have a few drinks and chill out. I just wish I'd been told how much food Emily and Nick were going to be making, 3 types of cookies and taco salad was enough to make me wish I hadn't had that third Veggie Fajita before I went out! 

5. Close Shaves- Me and Hannah were on the Metro with our new friend Cait, who will be greatly missed, helping her get back to get stop and we got ambushed and the first station after we got on. Green guards were everywhere and we didn't have a ticket, we thought it would be clever to risk it at 9pm. Cait had spares and quickly past them on to us. Then the guards looked at our tickets," C'est pas bon, venez", so we followed him off into the station and decided to pretend we didn't speak French. The guards were determined to fine us, but we just carried on playing dumb and speaking really fast English and somehow managed to get away with it! God knows how. 

All in all, it's been a good few weeks in Lille. Very much looking forward to my birthday and a trip to Amsterdam next weekend.... watch this space!

Friday, 7 January 2011

The past few weeks have been really great, there have been trips, drinks, Christmas Shopping and plenty more reasons to despise living in France, but I'll get to that in good time.

My lessons have been going pretty well. I'm beginning to get some favourites in some of my classes. I know it's bad, but it's difficult not to like the kids who always listen and answer the questions correctly. I particularly love my class of CM1s (the second oldest in primary schools), normally me and the teacher take half the class each and work on the same topic then switch on the second class. We've successfully done numbers, colours, pets, days of the week, months and after this next week they'll have an excellent Christmas vocabulary. It's very easy to see the difference between good teachers and bad teachers, it is really reflected in the students. Madame Lagache's CM1s work so well, they don't fool around and always listen but are still lots of fun at the same time. I think they are probably scared of her. I don't really blame them, as me and Gisela the Spanish assistant are also pretty terrified of her. But in my other school there are some terrible classes, they are so difficult to teach and really don't want to learn, and you can tell that this is because the teachers are much softer with them.

I'm really excited about Christmas now. It's feels like this year is going to be really good, not only because I have the money to get my family decent presents this year but also because I feel like it's more of a big deal going home because I'm coming from France. Lille is so Christmassy, there is a massive wheel on the Grand Place and there is a cute little Christmas Market. This week I'm going to carry on teaching the kids Christmas vocab, including reindeer which will be taught through pin the nose on Rudolph.

Obviously I wrote this quite a long time, and rather than bombard everyone with posts about events I can't really remember I'll reflect on the past few weeks and write a new post in the next few days.

A bientot

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Un disque rayé...

It's only been a few days since my last post, but I have something I really want to get off my chest.

Anyone who knows me well, and perhaps not so well, will know that I am a bit of a music nazi and don't like to expand my horizons to accommodate other peoples tastes. But I'm seriously beginning to worry about the future of British music. I've been brought up by a father who has a good taste in music and who has always encouraged me to appreciate natural musical talents above all else. For example, regarding those who can play their own instruments and write their own songs superior to all else. A mentality I have adopted to this day, and will express at any opportunity.

Today I decided to scour the top lists on spotify to find some new and exciting music to accompany the many nights I will spend writing lesson plans and planning my 6,000 word YA project. And on the top 50 list, there is nothing by a band. And by "band" I mean people who are capable of writing their own songs and music. Although this proves nothing about the state of British music, just that dominating demographic of Spotify is fans of hip hop, r'n'b and manufactured shite.

Of course I have nothing against fans of Rihanna and Usher, I just find it irritating when people who actually want to listen to new up and coming British bands struggle because our radio and television is full of X factor rejects. This year I made the decision not to watch it, because I'm fed up of shows like that building up young "talents" only to make them national treasures and then drop them as soon as the next big thing comes along.

This may shock people, but I actually can't get enough of Lady Gaga. Her outlandish fashion, her amazing voice and her songs. Which she has written herself. I was actually inspired when I found out she was the brains behind many of Christina Aguilera's hits that even I enjoyed back in the day. Due to confidence issues she gave her songs away and wanted to stay out of the spotlight. Everyone knows the rest of the story as she shot to fame for her ridiculous clothes. In a way, she is a real role model to young girls today (maybe not by wearing clothes out of meat), and not people like Rihanna who should be slapped for releasing a song called "Rude Boy". When I first heard that song I did a double take, I couldn't believe half of those lyrics weren't bleeped out! Frankie goes to Hollywood were extradited for "Relax". It's just extraordinary that these big label stars can get away with it, especially when her main audience is teen girls. Disgusting.

I'm fully aware that music is changing, and pop music refers to what is currently popular. I'm fully aware that this will change over the years and this years big thing will be next year's has-been. I just think it's a crying shame that the British music scene is currently dominated by big-label American acts. If people could only dig a little deeper to find good music, instead of accepting whatever Ferne Cotten brands a "tuuuuuuuuune!" as the best thing ever then maybe our music scene would be a little better.

God I sound like a right nazi. My apologies. I just know what I like.

In other news, my week has been much better. My schools are going really well and the kids are finally getting the hang of "my name is....", magical. Bingo and colours to come next week, watch this space for more moaning and whinging from your favourite music nazi.

Get it?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Mes cours commencent...

When I got back from my little trip to Dortmund, I finally got to start teaching the kids in my schools. To begin with I wasn't too sure what to expect, or what was expected of me. But I got off to a decent start, trying to force 6-10 year olds to repeat "my name is...", more often than not it came out as "my nezz eee". Oh the little Frenchies. After 2 classes, most of them has got the hang of it.

My bank card finally arrived, well not necessarily arrived because I had to go into the bank and practically break down in front of the woman telling her how awful my week had been and waiting 5 weeks to get a bank card was bloody ridiculous! So the woman looked really apologetic, scurried to the bank and came back declaring "c'est bon, c'est bon". I wanted to run over and hug her.

Best Cheesecake in the world!
It was Jessica's birthday on Monday so we all went out for dinner on Tuesday, and it was sooo nice. We went to a restaurant called The Berliner, which was seriously trendy and surprisingly quiet. It was a Tuesday, so I didn't think much of it. As soon as we took a seat, they played the new Interpol song. I have a new favourite place. They also had the best cheesecake I've ever eaten, EVER.

One of the main issues I've been having is my lack of speaking French outside school, and the amount I'm speaking it in school. Most of my friends here are English/American and this is great because I have met an amazing bunch of people. I just wish I could have the confidence to speak more French within social situations and with my peers. I'm by no means bad at French I just wish it I had less inhibitions. At schools it's been fine, I've been speaking loads of French, and a teacher even told me I was good today. Although my vocabulary is currently limited to sit down, shut up and behave!

La Piscine
A highlight for me, was Hannah, Chloe and my trip to La Piscine museum in Roubaix. It used to be a swimming pool, and they still had a shallow pool in the main hall with statues and carvings around the walkway round the edge. It was so pretty, as there were giant stained glass window at either end which reflected in the pool. The only creepy thing was that every now and again they played sounds of children playing and splashing. It was pretty disturbing really. Their exhibitions were amazing and certainly worth the 7E entrance. And that's without the Degas exhibition which has been plastered all over the metro stations. I have to admit, it was a total let down. it was a collection of bronze statues, which were beautiful but the atmosphere of the gallery was horrid. Full of tour guides and German tourists it made it difficult to appreciate the art, unlike the rest of the museum which was quiet. Outside there was a lampost which was covered in the stickers you are given at the museum, I thought that was worth a photo.

Thursday was a jour férié, which is essentially a public holiday, because it was remembrance day. So on Wednesday night Cait and Louise had a party in Roubaix. It was soooo much fun and it was really nice to chat in French with people, so things are definitely improving on that front. We drank tequila and wine and we danced to Gwen Stefani and it was amazing. I'm glad I left when I did though, because I felt seriously ill the next day. And I had to miss out on Hana and Hannah's trip to Ypres for remembrance day, which really sucked.

Over the last week I've had a serious moral boost, but I'm really looking forward to Christmas and seeing my family. The countdown starts here.

Clare, Hana, Moi et Nick chez Cait et Louise

Friday, 5 November 2010

Je reviens...

I arrived back in Lille on Monday to a bit of a harsh awakening. The boiler had stopped working and it rather rather chilly in our flat. We called the landlord but he told us that it was going to take a few days to fix, and I had lesson plans and lots of things to sort out. It was very irritating. To make matters worse the bank still won't give me my bank card, apparently they haven't had confirmation from the post office that I signed for their letter confirming my address. STUPID SYSTEM. I don't want everyone to think that all I do is complain, but it has been hard to be constantly knocked down by the French and then feel like you've got back on your feet only to get knocked down again. Okay, no more moaning. Here's a bit of a play-by-play of what I did in Dortmund with Rowan.

So I got to Rowan's flat on Monday afternoon. The drive there was lovely as I passed through Belgium, Holland and then Germany. It was all very pretty. I got a bit lost at Eindhoven because the roads were new and my satnav still had the old roads. But I found my way eventually. Rowan cooked me a dinner of fish fingers then we went to bed.

On Tuesday I got up and Rowan took me to his union (which is very similar to English) where we had lunch. You got like a whole plate of food for hardly any money. But it was all a bit odd. The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole system and I went for chicken dipper things which came with a delightful mushroom sauce (NOT!). Then I sat in a café and did some lesson plans whilst Rowan had his French class. We then went back to his house and chilled out.

On Wednesday we did the same, but I met him at his union and found some normal food to eat. Then we went into the town to have a little look round. It's a really pretty town and there were lots of nice shops. But I was trying my hardest to be good and not spend lots of money. I can imagine it being really pretty when the Christmas markets are on. Afterwards we went to meet Rowan's friend Leo who is German. He was very friendly and we went to a table football tournament hosted by the Stats department at Rowan's uni. God do the Germans take table football seriously. Apparently there is an actual league.So me and Rowan teamed up and totally got our arses kicked. It was very embarrassing. We drank plenty of beer to drown our sorrows, but then on our final game, we won! And we won epically I might add. We then went home and watched some of the Office.

I can't really remember what what did on Thursday, so I'll have to fill this out later!

On Friday, we went to the zoo. I was literally so happy because there were cute animals everywhere! We saw penguins, otters, sloths and lions. It was very cute! Rowan has also nicknamed me Faultier (lazy animal in German) because I am always tired. The penguins were amazing, they all swan in formation with one stood on the side pointing (sort of) and they all swam in that direction. It was amazing. After the zoo we went to the cosy little café at the zoo and had hot chocolate and sat on the comfiest leather sofas ever.

Saturday came and we decided to get out my the town and go visit somewhere else, we decided Essen would be nice. So we got on the train, where we sat chatting and the man opposite said "are you speaking English?", "Yeah..?", "oh I'm Irish and I've been in this country 3 weeks and no one speaks English"...... we wondered if he was thinking of the right country? Everyone in Germany speaks English. He was clearly pissed and said the F word after every other word. So we made the decision to get off the train at Bochum so we wouldn't have to carry on speaking to the drunk, crazy Irish stock taker anymore. We decided to go and get some lunch, Rowan forced me to eat schnitzel and then the football came on. Apparently the Germans like to confuse themselves by watching 6 football matches on one screen at the same time and just cut between each game. Thus missing most of the action. It was an interesting experience.

There was an important Dortmund football match on Sunday, first place Mainz v second place Dortmund in the Bundelsliga.We went ot a fan pub to watch it with some of Rowan's friends. It was really good and they gave us free beer before the game started. The atmosphere was amazing. It ended up 2-0 to Dortmund putting them back at the top!

We went to a house party on Sunday night for Halloween with Rowan's erasmus friends, it was really good fun but the host Gigi ended up in bed by 11 because she'd mixed her drinks really badly! Oops. Then we went to the bar in her building where there was another halloween party. All the girls got hit on by this creepy German boy who couldn't take no for an answer. He kept stroking our hair and running his hands down our backs. It was very very creepy. Later on I had a massive go at him because he was grabbing this girls chest as she pushed him away because she was with another boy. I got so annoyed because what makes him think he has the right to do that to her when she makes it clear that she doesn't want him to touch her? I said this to him and his answer was "she's been with 4 other guys tonight", but as if that is an excuse for you to touch her. She said no, it means no. I was literally so mad.

On Monday we decided to drive to Hamm to see this giant glass elephant they have. It was pretty dissapointing to be honest but we bought a mega bucket of popcorn and discovered that Hamm is twinned with Bradford. Rowan was brimming with Yorkshire pride. We got back to Rowan's and watched loads more of the office and the Christmas special.

I got back to Lille on Tuesday afternoon. Literally can't wait for my next Dortmund trip.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Je m'installe.....

So, after weeks of torture and torment with French agencies, private landlords, scams and leboncoin, we have finally found somewhere to live. It's a lovely appartement on a really nice street. If anyone would like my address they may message me for it, I'm not about to give the whole world my address :) I'll also attach some photographs (baring in mind it was unfurnished and we're currently trying to get it looking as homely as possible)

I'm feeling much more positive about life this week. I'm visiting my boyfriend Rowan in Germany, because I have a 10 day holiday from school and thought it would be a good opportunity to travel to Dortmund to check out his way of life. It's all very nice and leafy, I will post another blog about that when I get back to Lille.

As for the past week or so, things have really been looking up. Not only have we found a lovely, affordable flat but the bank have started being nice to us and finally sent out letters for us to sign so we can get our bank cards. Hopefully mine will be waiting for me when I get back from Germany. Me and Hannah have spent a lot of time in Ikea recently, trying to work out what to do with the empty space of an apartment we now live in. So far I've bought the world's most uncomfortable 39euro mattress, and bed side table and a kitchen chair. Our landlord has agreed to go to Ikea and pick up bedframes and desks for us, because my car is too small and Ikea's delivery is like daylight robbery. I would be really grateful of any cheap solutions to make my bed comfier? Our kitchen was practically empty as well. But after some debating with the landlord he agreed to put some counters in and buy us some electric hobs so we can continue our wonderful diet of pasta and veg. Yum yum.

The biggest task, finding a fridge. We looked on leboncoin to see if anyone was wanting to sell fridges, but they all looked a bit dodgey. So one night over a bizarre Brazilian chocolate concoction, one of the Belgian girls we met in the Foyer told us about a second hand furniture shop near the local supermarket. So we went there the next day and found a little fridge freezer for 90euros. Without hesitation we bought it, mainly because we knew it would fit in the car. So we set off, then thought how on earth are we going to get this up the stairs into the apartment? Luckily the landlord was visiting us that night to take more rent money off us. So he agreed to carry it up for us. Then he asked where we'd bought it from and we told him. And apparently that place is run by ex convicts and prisoners who are paid to restore broken appliances. This did worry me quite a bit but he assured me that it wouldn't be a problem and it was a serious rehabilitation program.

 Another must-have when living in France is home insurance, or assurance tous risques locatifs. which we were dreading buying because in England it wouldn't come cheap. It's the law in France to have insurance. We managed to get a quote for 60 euros between us for the year. BARGAIN!

To celebrate a successful week, me and Hannah went on a little afternoon out on Sunday before we headed of on our travels on Monday. We went for lunch at this restaurant Hannah had been going on and on about since we arrived because she had been there with her boyfriend over the summer. And let me tell you, it didn't disappoint. I had a tartine, with vegetables and loats of parmasan mmmmmmm. Then we went into Vieux Lille to have a walk around and take some photos. (I'll upload them to Facebook) It was a lovely little day out, and felt like a true reward based on the weeks successes.