Posts Tagged ‘Strasbourg Strollers’

More work to do


As someone living in France, who talks English at home and whose work is in the English language it would be very easy to remain a non-French speaker.  It would mean I remain dependent upon other people for things it is necessary to speak French for and that my experiences would otherwise be massively curtailed to those available in English.  This could still allow a large element of activity; there is only one all French cinema – so there are three (here & here) that show films in English with sub-titles, the Strasbourg Cricket team operate in the English language and I’ve just got involved in one of a number of theatre groups in the city that do so in English, there is also the English Speaking Community of Alsace (ESC) who put on a monthly pub visit, coffee morning and regular events like quizes and a bonfire night.   So, as long as you have a French speaking partner who can take care of the bureaucracy, you can live an active life and have a circle of friends without eve learning the language.

But then why live in France if you don’t learn the language?  Yes its difficult but then things worth doing sometimes are.  Why live in a place and miss out on a lot of what it ha to offer?  As a result I learn French once a week in a class for an hour and a half and exchange an hours French lesson for an hours English lesson.  I have resumed the fencing lessons which were the instigation for writing this blog and they are done in French.  Most importantly the kind of work available to someone who only speaks English means that, unless you do something like the childcare, you have little independence and you rely upon your partner.

It takes time but the work to learn the language is worth it.  To restart fencing I needed a certificate from my Doctor to say that I am healthy and fit enough to fence.  The precautionary principle providing a stark contrast to the more English approach of relying upon the individual to know what is good for them.  I just went to the local Doctor and waited to see her and I felt such a sense of achievement upon leaving with my certificate having carried out the conversation in French.  At work, apart from my fellow English speakers I deal with the other staff in French and it is good to be able to do so.

At school I did one year of French and did not get on with it.  Some of it was as a result of a clash with my French teacher.  On reaching 11 and being given the choice I opted for German and fell in loved with the language, country and people although it was not always reciprocated – particularly the results in my exams at 16.  For the last three years I’ve been working to be able to speak French and there has been a lot of progress but there is a lot more to do.

Tony Blair’s book has just ben launched in a French language edition and last night he was on a programme where he was interviewed for an hour about the book.  I was pleased to be able to follow the interview and pick up some of the nuances that were talked about.  Watch yourself at:



I am writing this whilst watching the draw for the Euro 2012 qualifying groups – who says boys can’t multi-task?  The quality of customer service in France has been something I have discussed with a number of people since being here.  A friend from my cricket team ran a restaurant in Strasbourg and was very unhappy with the attitude of the people who worked in the restaurant – is it unusual for a restaurant owner to have a poor view of the people working there?  Well it fits in with my some of my experience and that of others I have talked to.  It has always been something of a relief to say, well at least its not as bad as that in Paris, as the attitude there to people not from Paris is so snooty.  (For those interested England’s group for the Euro 2012 qualifiers is Switzerland, Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro.)  In further parenthesis it was interesting to read a piece about service in France but I was disappointed that the sub-editors who had headlined the piece had put that it was about service in France whilst, as is normal, it was about Paris.  I was surprised that the piece put the attitude of people down to the revolution and a keen sense that everyone is equal to you and no-one superior, I’m not convinced, particularly as it is not so strongly the case outside Paris as in Paris.

Today I will be watching for the result of the presidential election in Ukraine where little seems to have changed since I was there for the election in 2004 and I will be surprised if the result is anything other than close with the two halves of the country split.  Also starting today, as far as people here are concerned, is the Six Nations.  With England defeating Wales and Ireland beating Italy yesterday.  Alsace is supposed to be a football area, it doesn’t have any top-flight rugby teams and, even with the problems of the football le Racing they are still several divisions above the rugby team of the same name – who are though unbeaten in their last 10 games.  But people I’ve worked with this week have talked about looking forward to the start of the 6 Nations, so much so that it has surprised me.  My memories of the 5 Nations from my youth include the match at Twickenham between England and France when someone would always release a cock onto the pitch.  I always wondered about the wisdom of having it as a symbol even before I was old enough to understand other meanings for the word.  Yesterday, on my way to see a disappointing exhibition of drawings by an architect whilst he travelled on the trams of Strasbourg, I came across this building:

the home of DNA,  the media group which produce the main local paper.  A close-up of the clock shows:



As I said in my last post on Sunday I went to Germany with the P1040601Strasbourg Strollers Cricket team to play what is pretty much a local derby against the Freiburg Nomads.  It was a gorgeous start to what became a gorgeous day as we drove the hour down to Southern Germany.  As you can see we played on a rolled out pitch place on an astro-turf pitch.  Bowling was from one end as a six at the other risked P1040619losing the ball in the boating lake.  It also had such a short boundary that it was worth only two runs for hitting the fence.  Frieburg batted first and made 222 for 4 in their 30 overs.  We batted second and were all out for less.  I bowled six overs and took half the Freiburg wickets to fall although I also gave away almost a quarter of the runs.  I consoled P1040625myself with the thought that it might have been a different story if the three catches put down off my bowling had been held.  Throughout the day we had quite a crowd watching as we played, though I wonder how many of them knew what they were watching.

PS 1 Oct 2009

The Parti Socialiste is voting tonight on who will be the head of the list for the regional elections in March and the line in our branch was very clearly put as being for M Bigot.  At the same time there is a referendum taking place on whether the same person should be able to be elected to all sorts of positions at the same time, over action for parity between men and women, and to introduce open primaries for the election of the presidential candidate in a couple of years.  I voted on my way home from work this evening.  Usually meetings and votes have been in the back room of a local restaurant.  When I went to vote tonight the restaurant was not open so voting was ‘al fresco’.  Here’s a picture of the Branch Secretary, substitute for our Depute, Councillor and Assistant to the Mayor, Eric, with the ballot box:


UPDATE: The free newspaper 20 minutes reports this morning, “Sauf surprise, Jacques Bigot represntera le PS” and that 70% of the PS had voted for primaries and against cumulative mandates.

Ode to Joy


One of the most amazing things for me in the last week was the dust cloud which enveloped Sydney.  I have family living there and, through the wonders of Facebook, they posted pictures of the impact in their neighbourhood.  It is one of the thing s that I welcome about technological developments like Facebook is that I am able to keep in touch with family I am interested in and care about, but previously would not have known about in the same way because the number of members of the family you keep in touch with by phone is so small.  It has already led to me finding out more about the lives and personalities of wider members of my family and has lead to members of the family at a distance to each other to be in communication in ways they hadn’t before.  When we meet up it will mean we are less strangers to each other, people are brought closer to each other.  Anyway for those who missed it, here is a photo gallery of the dust storm and here is a thorough report with some more amazing pictures from a British paper.

In less than an hour I will be off to join colleagues from the Strasbourg Strollers, the city’s premier cricket team, for the last match of the season against Freiburg Nomads Cricket team, apart from Strasbourg Combined, probably our closest neighbours and therefore something of a derby match.  We had not played each other for a couple of years because their team used to be ultra-competitive whereas we play to enjoy ourselves.  The weather has been a wonderful end to the Summer all week and it looks like being perfect weather for playing cricket.  Add in the fact that Freiburg, is one of my favourite cities and somewhere I would like to live at some point whilst here and it makes a day I have been looking forward to, as well as the fact that over the Summer I got my Strasbourg Strollers shirt and cap, I make no apologies for being excited about this afternoon’s game.  Here I am in February 2008, a day far to sunny and warm for February, people say the place has its own micro-climate:

DSCF4107The coming week is also a busy one with le Racing at home on Monday night.  They’ve made an awful start to the season.  They sacked the manager who had them relegated to Ligue 2 and then didn’t get them promoted back last season and his replacement lasted only a couple of games before he was sacked and they are now bottom of the table propping up the league.  Then on Tuesday it the English Speaking Community-Alsace Music Quiz at the Dubliners.  As reigning champions it is important that we fight to keep our crown.  Then on Wednesday and Thursday it is celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the Council of Europe which on the second night includes a visit from one of the great men, and a hero of mine, of the last century, Mihajil Gorbachov.  So, it will be welcome relief to get to the end of the week and stay in.  Here is the anthem of the Council of Europe and now seen as the one for Europe too:

The far from lost weekend part II


After the match finished the rain started to fall seriously and we piled into P1030466cars and drove the 20 minutes or so to our accommodation for the evening.  It was a farm which had been converted into two houses and managed to put up nine people.  After welcome warm showers we gathered to enjoy a BBQ which, because of the weather, had to be cooked under the grill instead, a few drinks and a pleasant chat involving the Strollers and members of the Montbard team.  P1030478It was our leader’s birthday and he got a birthday cake to celebrate.  People started leaving at 23:00 but I was with a hard core who stayed up to 01:00.  After a cold night and another welcome warm shower we had breakfast before heading off, as seen on the right.  There had been much discussion the night before about whether the motorway P1030487or the scenic route were better for getting home.  It was agreed that the time was pretty much the same for either route so it would be better to go the scenic route.  I was in the two seter sports car on the left of the top photo and a lack of rain meant it wasn’t long before we had the top down.  The above picture was taken from above P1030506the windscreen and it looks like the cloud above is following the road.  Fortunately we managed to stay in front of it before it decided to drop any of the rain it was carrying.  I said in yesterdays post that my lift had spent the previous day Geocaching and the journey back offered me a chance to find out about this pastime.  About midday we came up to P1030495Chaumont and the viaduct shown above.  We turned off and at the bottom of one of the spans was found the box, pictured left, which also had a log-book which the provider of my lift completed.  We looked around the viaduct a bit then drove into the town and found something to eat.  We stopped at the restaurant opposite the P1030543station called L’Affiche.  It was named after the ‘Festival international de l’affiche et du graphisme de Chaumont’ which was taking place at that very time, for the 20th year. After brochette de dinde and a nice tarte almonde we were refueled for the rest of the journey home.  I got a chance to drive and above is a picture of me P1030552taken when the car was being refueled.  We passed through Champagne and then returned to Alsace.  On the way we looked for a cache in a 10th or 11th century (According to which sign you believe) castle and had success at a château.  I got home with just over an hour left to vote which I then did.(The above picture taken on the return to Strasbourg shows how much the Cathedral stands out.  It had been visible almost as soon as we came down from the Vosges.  Almost as tall behind it are the hills/mountains of the Black Forrest.)

The far from lost weekend part I


On Friday we departed Strasbourg in the early afternoon and the sun and travelled by TGV through the Vosges and then the industrial North-East of France before coming to Luxembourg and then Luxembourg city.  P1030417After an early dinner we discovered it was a twenty minute train ride to Belval where the concert was being held.  Belval seemed like a huge office/shopping/flat complex in the process of being built on the site of a former steelworks, as seen in the picture above.  The Rockahl was part of the new buildings.  It was not the largest venue and you can read reviews and see the setlist for Morrisseys fabulous performance here.   The great Luxembourg public transport meant we got P1030422back to the hotel in time for some sleep before I had to get up at 04:30 to get the 05:02 train from Luxembourg to Metz before changing for the train for Nice which was to take me to Dijon.  I had some time to kill and walked into Dijon, spent some time in a cafe and got my phone charged before catching the TGV to Montbard, which was half an P1030436hour away on the main line to Paris.  Again with time to kill before my lift arrived I left the station, pictured left, and walked into Montbard and got something to eat, with the impending physical exercise and having been up for some time I dcided some pasta was in order and ate at the Restaurant Le CalypsoP1030442.  Just as I was finishing my lift called and I met Nick at the station, having bought him a sandwich near the station.  He had spent the previous day GPS cache hunting and walking in the sparsely populated central France.  We went to the Mon Bar (Geddit) where we met the other players in the Strasbourg Strollers Cricket Club team and Francois from our opponents who guided us to the cricket pitch between the TGV line and the River Seine.  We batted first and to help the other team provided them with a couple of P1030446fielders whilst the rest of their team arrived and the umpires.  I was one of the umpires.  You get much better pictures as an umpire, like the one on the left of our first-wicket down pair hitting the first of many boundaries.  A couple of times we went off for rain and the match was reduced from thirty P1030450to twenty-five overs, although as this happened before the second innings there was no need to apply the Duckworth-Lewis.  The picture on the right shows us sheltering from the rain in the ‘pavilion.’  I batted for the last couple of overs and scored a season best* of 2 not out out of a score of 204 for 6.(*It was the first game of the season.)  After tea Montbard batted and they started well.  After six or seven overs I bowled and took two wickets in my four overs, including P1030465removing the opposition captain and major threat.  I then took a catch off the bowling of our captain.  We bowled Montbard out for 94 runs with three overs left.  On the right is a picture  of both teams after the game, together with the large bat which is the emblem of Montbard Cricket Culb. (To be continued…)

Throwing my arms around Luxembourg


P1030407The first time I voted in France was in a student election.  I was given the various lists of candidates and an envelope and then told to go behind the curtain into the voting area and vote.  But none of the lists had a box on them.  Where was I to put my cross?  How did I show I wanted particular candidates?  It was only after I put one of P1030406the lists into the envelope, having randomly crossed off some names, of people I knew nothing more about than the others I did not cross off, that I was able to put it in the box and cast my vote.  I later found out that the way you vote in France is by putting the list into the envelope and then putting that in the box.  I don’t know what people scrutinising the vote would have thought when my vote came out with people crossed off.  I hope the people concerned did not see it as they could take it personally when it was a mistake by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.  Anyway.  The photo at the top is of my Carte Electorale which has to be shown to the polling officer to get your envelope and the one below is of the lists of candidate.  One of these is put into the envelope and you then have to sign before your name in the electoral register, the hole in the box is openned and you drop your vote in.

Anyway, enough of elections.  I’m off to Luxembourg to see Morrissey and then I am catching a train at 5 in the morning to play cricket in Burgundy.  I will vote on my return.  To mark the visit to the master and go some way to explain the title of this post here he is:

Back bollocking


Well that’s some absence, more than a month since the last post. Not good for building a readership I’m told. You have to post frequently so people know to come back. I know it true. But my response is a bit of cussed obstinacy , It’s my blog and I’ll write it when I want to. There’s also the ambivalence about claiming not to want an audience, but then my pleasure on getting comments shows that I do. Anyway I didn’t write for a month and now I am again.

In the last month work has gone crazy at the same time as there were visits to Andorra, Toulouse and Lyon and then another week in Madeira. We’ve had the Easter, Workers Day and Anniversary of the end of the Second Wold War holidays, which allowed a lot of the traveling to happen. I’ve seen Bob Dylan, Zaho and Gregoire in very good concerts, Manchester City are out of European competition and have two games to try and get back for next season. Le Racing are second and still on course for promotion back to League 1. The cricket season has started and has gone comparitvely well for Lancashire. We’ve had some wonderful weather. The last weekend saw a visit to Germany for the holiday to celebrate the end of WWII, Saturday afternoon spent with my cricket team teaching cricket to the Fench and then the film ‘the Rocking Boat’ on Sunday. Last night was the first semi-final of the Eurovision, tomorrow is the second before we have the joy of the final on Saturday. Before that there is a long walk in the Vosges on Saturday and afterwards is an early departure for the train to Stuttgart then a flight back to Belgrade. Not to repeat the visit from February in better weather but in order to catch the sleeper train to Skopje to get another capital and then to visit Pristina, although it isn’t really yet a European capital just tocover allour bases, in case anyone might want to say anything about our not having visited it in the future. That’ll do for my return.

One bit of snow and the whole country grinds to a halt……


Plenty of times when back in the UK there was a bit of snow and everything came to a halt.  People decry the UK and say that it cannot deal with a bit of snow without the country coming to a halt.  They point to elsewhere in Europe and say how great they are at dealing with snow.  “Why can’t we be more like them?” we hear cried.  I think the reason is that most places that cope well with snow are places which have it frequently.  It pays for them to spend the time and money on preparing for the snow and having the necessary equipment to deal with it when it arrives.  When it snows rarely why spend the time and money preparing for it?  As an example, in four years walking to work in London it snowed on me twice, despite walking a lot more during the months you might expect snow.   Both those times the media reported about how London ground to a halt, schools closed, public transport didn’t work etc.  France is one of the places held up as being good at dealing with the snow.  Certainly in the areas in the Alps and nearby used to snow it doesn’t seem to cause too many problems.  Here in Strasbourg snow earlier in the week didn’t seem to result in problems as it is expected in winter and prepared for.  However, snow yesterday in Marseille brought everything to a halt, schools closed, trains and the tram stopped running etc.  See reports, including video here from France2 and here from the BBC. QED?

Caught in the slips?

Rumours first circulated early yesterday morning that the England cricket captain had resigned and the coach was also gone.  It has been like watching a train-wreck happening.  It seems he tried to force a showdown with the high-ups in cricket that it was either him or the coach, Pieterson did not have the support of all the other players so had to go, as well as the coach as seen from the BBC and a later version of the story from the Daily Mail.  What this does ahead of a tour to the West Indies, a return tour from them to the UK and then, most importantly this year, the Ashes series against the Australians I’ve no idea.  At the end off the month I’ll be going to the AGM of my local cricket club, the Strasbourg Strollers, (match report from last season here) and I hope there’s not any of this sort of thing going on there!

I’m not the galette king.

It’s a good job I wrote about galete des rois yesterday because at my French class today it was the main subject of the lesson.  It was so helpful in following the lesson.  However, I did not get to be king when we had the galette.  Including the teacher there were seven women and me and the teacher said it would be wrong to ask the women their age so, as a result of “faber domine” I should decide who got which piece.  I said I should get the fourth piece and the rest should be distributed in order.  My mistake, I did not get a favour but the fifth piece, which is what I would have had if I’d kept to strict order, did contain a favour so I would have been king.  I did get to be king as a result of being the only person the two queens (there were two favours in this galette) could have as their king.

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