January 31, 2011

My Ashby Years (2)

This first job was in Burton Upon Trent (Staffs), in a rather posh hotel & restaurant which I’ll call here The Duck. They agreed to employ me and to train me as a restaurant waiter. They had a staff house nearby and I had to share a room with an other French waiter, Pascal.

Pascal had started at The Duck 6 months previously without hardly being able to say 2 words in English. He was a very lively young man and quite excentric too. For instance he would play golf in the middle of our tiny lounge staff house. Pascal didn’t have a happy family life. Sometimes he would enter our bedroom in the middle of the night completely drunk and would tell me everything about his life…

At some stage it became intolorable for me to share a room with Pascal. I said to the manager that if I couldn’t have a room for myself I would give my resignation… Well it worked ! I did have my own room.

A very memorable episode was when the day before Pascal was going to go on holiday in France with his English girl-friend he woke us up complaining to have a very upset tommy. We rushed him to hospital. There the GP asked him what was the trouble. I had to translate that « He was in pain because his girl-friend had s… him too hard ! » With my house mates we were hoping that they would keep him overnight… they didn’t…

January 27, 2011

My Ashby Years (1)

I still didn't know what to do with my life. At the time I was involved with the Pithiviers-Ashby De La Zouch (Leics) Twinning Association. Mainly following a conversation English course but I soon met people from Ashby while on their visit in Pithiviers. I particurlarly became friendly with Jo. She had lost her husband lately and was nonetheless very lively and had a great sense of humour. I didn't have anything to loose and so eventually I decided - after a few visits to Jo's and trips with the Twinning - to go to live in Ashby to learn English there and then, deep in the pan. I packed "everything except the sink" in my car and crossed the Channel, on the ferry, we were in 1987. I had booked a B & B recommended by someone from Ashby. This B & B was run by Mark & Julie who are still friends of mine. Julie was a Scott and an other lodger was from Northern England. It would have been quite funny I suppose to listen to us 3 with those different and very distinctives accents.
The plan was to get a job in a restaurant as a waiter. Thanks to Mark's advice I found out a live in job in Burton Upon Trent within 10 days.

Women are Heroes

I went to see this film at the Arts & Essay cinema of Montpellier le Diagonal. (see : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/watch-jrs-women-are-heroe_n_802936.html) Un fortunately I fall asleep during the show but I was interested by this idea of making "stars" of everyday people who are struggling for their life.

Update last 10 days

Sorry folks ! I haven't been in touch lately. I have been out quite a lot and didn't take time out to write down here. I have been meeting up Meetup on several occasions :
- Exhibition at the Bonnington Gallery (Art & Design School of Nottingham University Trent) : Waterlust
- Films at Broadway : Of Men and Gods ; Rise, Rise, Roar ; The King's Speech.

Last Monday I went to a theatre quiz at the Playhouse. Fairly enjoyable. I was in a small team of pass members and D. from the Management. We didn't win but didn't loose either :)

January 22, 2011


Like a lot of old Cities Nottingham has got its shares of unusalities and odities. So let’s have a look at some of those which would most probably interest French teenagers visiting our City.

Starting from Derby Rd near the Cathedral there is a tunnel. It’s hidden along side a private building and looks like the entrance of a underground car park. This tunnel leads to The Park, a private residential neighborhood. It’s one of the largest neighborhood in Europe still using gaz for lighting. Coming out of the tunnel and keeping to your left you’ll eventually go underneath the rock and through the exit gate. Straight above is the Castle. From the Castle terrace we could talk about all the caves, tunnels and passages which have been dug. And from this view point, among other things, we can point to Radcliff Power Station, one of the largest still using coal.

A bit of History then. Going out from the Castle and going up hill on St James Terrace, take the 1st left. Just before entering a private residence there is a plaque on the floor stating « Here Charles I raised his standard in 1642 » An opportunity to say a few words about the War of the Roses.

You will then go back on your steps to the Castle and walk your way to the Lace Market via Friar Lane, Old Market Square, South Parade (along the Tram tracks), turning right on Exchange Walk, carrying on Albert St and going left on Low Pavement. Go on the left along Nottingham Contemporary and immediately on your right you’ll see the pub « Pitcher & Piano ». It used to be a church and the windows have survived the refurbishment. It is worth taking a look and maybe having a toast there to the English-French friendship !

January 16, 2011

My Baptist Years (4)

That's when I got a job as a secretary in a community etc - see "My Baptist Years (2) -

After a while I was advised to go to university if only to preserve my health security status. I went for English. I always loved English right from school. I enjoyed very much the cursus. Even got friendly with the English in to French translation teacher. But only attended the courses I really cared for and didn't do a bit of homework. At the end of the university year I only went for the exam of my "friend" teacher and didn't pass.

My Dad was in the D.I.Y. trade and had a shop in Pithiviers (it's roughly between Orléans and Paris). I asked him if I could work in his business but part time and not on Saturdays. Which is quite not heard of in this kind of job... But my Dad could hardly refuse me anything so he tailored me a position... Those 4 years (we're in 1984 by now) were quite happy. It was the 1st time I had my own flat, car and job... I got Wednesday afternoons off as well to go to see a psychotherapist in Paris. I was away most of the week -ends to the point that the Minister of the Baptist Church told me off for not being supportive anymore of the Orléans Branch. I was visiting other Evangelical Communities wherever I went, that's was my excuse ! I had join a choir, was visiting elderly people with a charity organisation, was learning the flute... Ah ! And yes I was working wasn't I ? My psychotherapist convinced me that the D.I.Y. business might be my call. This resolution didn't last very long. My Mum persuaded me to get ready for a competitive examination to work in a town hall. Hence I took on a correspondence course. I was quite relieved when I was told the following term than there was not any position available for at least a year...

Then Charlotte came along... I met Charlotte at a meeting held at the community near Orléans where I used to live before moving to Pithiviers. Charlotte found some of my medecine in the lounge of this house and shouted out aloud : "whose taking xxx ?" It turned out that she was on the same anti-depressing drug ! Amazing, wasn't it ? Charlotte was from a large family in the North and hadn't settled on any job or career yet. In the few months or so that we wrote daily letters to each other she looked after a retired priest in A. , was a nanny to a child with very serious disability near Paris... One day through the manager of the D.I.Y. shop I got her a job as a dentist assistant in Pithiviers. She jumped on the opportunity and found a small house to rent a few yards from where I lived. We were sincerely in love with each other but had decided to wait until getting married to have any sex. For obvious religions excuses : she being Catholic and me as you know...To be honest I was not attracted to Charlotte whatsoever. And I couldn't tell or even wouldn't probably looking on any sign on her part. The only shadow on our "happiness" was the fact that my Baptist friends disagreed fiercely that I was going out with a girl who was quite certainly "not saved"!

Nonetheless within maybe 2 years of knowing each other we decided to get engaged. Our parents talked to each other over the phone. Charlotte and I went in a monastery for a week-end to pray and think over our engagement. At the end of it Charlotte told me that after all she was not ready to get engaged. I was very disappointed. I could already see myself raising a family with her. A bit later we spent a week end in London together. It's there that I told her that I didn't want to be her boy-friend anymore because I couldn't cope with our religious differences.

In great part thanks to my psychotherapist I at least (I was 26ish) started to have relationships with men. And yes that's was definitively my call !

January 12, 2011

New Year' Eve Faux Pas Story

I had been invited to a friend of a friend’s for New Year’s Eve. My friend Albertine warned me not to be too inquisitive. As a matter of fact I had already met our hosts on a previous occasion.

Madeleine opened the door. She was wearing a green outfit from head to toe and she was carrying a green leather hand bang at arm’s length like the Queen does. Wanting to please I said « oh what a lovely hand bag you’ve got there Madeleine. Where did you… ? » At this point Albertine discretely gave elbowed me so I didn’t pursue the matter at hand.

We were served lovely green petits fours with green tea and then eventually we were kindly asked to go to the dining room. We were 10 people in total and there was a table seating plan. Albertine was located miles away from me so I couldn’t rely on her foot or elbow to prevent me from any further faux pas.

The entire meal was obviously inspired by Albertine’s favorite colour : green. We had a green soufflé to start with followed by some non-indentifiable meat covered up by hot mint sauce.Eight year old Madeleine’s daughter, Rose-Marie, was seating on my right. I said : « It’s a lovely dish , you know. Obviously you’re being vegetarian yourself tonight. » She had only green vegetables on her plate and I clearly seemed to recall, she was a meat eater. Rose Marie looked at me in a funny and sad way. Trying to cheer her up I asked her about Albert. Albert was her crocodile pet who was living in their bottom pool garden. Albert was a brainy crocodile who had been rescued by Rose Marie’s parents from the last flooding in Cornwall. Marie-Rose took her napkin from her lap and bursted into tears. No doubt I had made a faux pas. I didn’t dare look at anybody as a heavy silence followed my faux pas. I just chewed the tastless food slowly.

Rose Marie was taken upstairs by her Mum and the conversation resumed fairly quickly as nothing had happened.

It’s only on our way back from the party that Albertine gave me the full picture. Albert had commited suicide on Christmas Eve. He had left a note saying that he was missing Cornwall too much and as Fred – Rose Marie’s Dad – wouldn’t even consider sending Albert back there if only for a week end – Albert had scribled down on his suicide note that he had no alternative but to flee to crocodile heaven.

In W.B. , where this story took place , it was considered as bad karma to give or sell a dead crocodile. Fred and Madeleine were very practical people so they decided to make the most of Albert’s body : clothes & bags from his skin and New Year’s Eve Dinner from his flesh.

January 11, 2011

My Baptist Years (3)

So I visited a couple of Bible Schools in the Paris suburbs and an other one in Switzerland. I prayed God to help me to choose. He definitively said I had to go to the nicest one in Switzerland. This school was indeed very nice. Located on a hill - actually nicknamed by the locals "Angels' hill" - above the Geneva Lake nearby a village above Vevay. It was run by an American couple and although it was French speaking, the students were from all over. I quickly settled in my new life and beside the courses I was a volunteer for a protestant scout movement. I was in charge of a small group of teenager boys. One winter and snowy week end with a colleague we organised a treasure hunt in the mountain. We had booked a chalet to stay all together overnight. The scouts had to start from Vevay station and thanks to the clues should have ended up at the chalet for dinner. Unfortunately they got lost because I mixed up the envelopes and we had no idea were they were ! Once again a miracle happened : we managed to find them - remember it was in neolithic times : no mobile phone, no sat nav - guided only by the Lord. We nevertheless were told off by the parents and our scout supervisor. Repentance was in order...
I enjoyed myself as well outdoors. We were only minutes away on the train from a cross country skiing area. I practiced this sport whenever I could. The teacher who was in charge of my studying was not impressed. I can vividly remember when he corned me as I was getting out of the school with the skis : "when do you get a minute to do your homework ? I have been looking after you for weeks..." I probably just repented again...
Obviously everything seemed fine but I still didn't had resolved anything. During the following Easter Holidays at my parents I broke down again. I never completed the 1st Bible School year. I was back to square one.

January 08, 2011

Mother Goose

Last night I went to see a pantomine (all you need to know about it : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantomime) at the Playhouse. This production was an original one and not a traditional fairy tale. It was fairly enjoyable, very funny at times and nicely interactive.
See : http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/family/mother-goose-panto-nottingham/

January 06, 2011

My Baptist Years (2)

One of those Fridays, as I was supposed to stay in Paris because my parents were off on holiday the following day, I went straight to the station after school on the heat of the moment. I was going into pieces. It's from there on that I started to see psychiatrists. I gave up the studying and looked for a job. I ended up to work for a NGO which was in fact a community for people who were at a loose end. It was only a few weeks contract but I was then invited to live with them. They were all catholics and although I saw myself as open minded I was still on a mission... I was supposed to participate in activities like gardening but I either did nothing or took the car - I had passed the driving test after 6 months of tedious learning in all sort of weather and an accident and bought back a car from my Dad - to pick up hitch-hikers to convert them...
I am getting mixed up in my own memories ! It must have been before this last episode that I had a job in an office of the Social Security. I was still at my parents but had a car therefore freedom... The contract I was on was only for 9 months and a half because after that they had to enrol me as a civil servant. In the spring of 1981 François Mitterand became President and under the pressure of the unions people like me were offered to be civil servants after all. I didn't want to. I had other plans : to study in a Bible School.

January 04, 2011

My Baptist Years (1)

I had been brought up as a Catholic and had followed the rites by the Book. In High School I even went as far as following Religion studies both in my own private school and in one of my friends state school. Back then I think I was a sincere believer without questioning too much the doctrine. And then I met up a girl who was agnostic and who started challenging me on my faith and on the Catholic Church. We made some researches together about the different religions. We eventually decided to try the Protestant Church. We thought it was more "authentic" than the Catholic and we went to a service in the main temple in Orléans. We quite liked it but were not entirely satisfied. Shortly afterwards my friend - I'll call her Marie-Rose here - got a flyer from the Baptist Church in her letter-box. She phoned in to meet the Minister. Mr P. was a very charismatic man and within a few days Marie-Rose was "converted to Jesus". I followed suit.
Let me tell you about Marie-Rose. We were in the same school but not in the same class. She was always on her own and since childhood I had always been good at making friends with lonely people. Besides MR was from a different back ground from mine. She had been raised with her younger brother by her divorced mum. That was as well one of my characteristic : to feel attracted to people from a different back ground. And then when she told me that she was born in Blida, Algeria, I fall in love. My best friend, Alfred, in Primary School went to live in Blida with his family. Alfred was without a bit of an ounce of a doubt my 1st love.
MR's mum, Agnès, was working in the offices of the General Hospital. When she heard I was going out with her daughter she asked to meet me at her job. She wanted to see if I was "un garçon comme il faut" - a nice bloke
The building of the Baptist Church in Orléans had been built originally by the Americans after WW II. MR & I we had indeed a very warm welcome in this small community. It was like a 2d family. We very soon became not only regulars but among the most devoted disciples. Eventually Agnes was converted as well. And we ended up the 3 of us - MR, Agnès & me - in the pool of the Baptist Church to get baptised. I qualified it at the time as "the best day of my life". My dad was there and was proud.
With MR we happened to be on a theater course together. I can't remember if I started to talk to her because of that or not. She was not really good looking and she was conviced that consequently the teacher didn't like her. MR might have been right. I had myself a silent crunch on a "play-boy" older than me. This theater colleague was the teacher favorite...
Obviously I wanted to "convert" everybody. I realise that I was a pain in the. neck. And I was often preaching what I couldn't achieve : to be happy. I was up & down all the time.
After the Bac (A Levels) I didn't know what to do. The director of my school said to my parents that it could be a good idea if I could follow my father's steps i.e. go into business. I went in a business school in Paris. It was great to be in the capital. The school was near Les Halles and I was living in an evangelical boarding home in the XVIth district. But I wasn't very keen on the studying and I was most of the time under the weather. I remember when I went back home at my parents on Fridays I used to read on the train a comic in the daily "La Croix" minutes before arriving to cheer up. I was only fooling myself.