Monday, December 18, 2006

The Modern Film

This weekend, amongst other things, we spent a lot of our time discussing film.
Try this quotation from the mouth of Herr Maximilian Hien, which I would love to set as an essay…
"Spiderman is the most historically accurate film ever made" (discuss…)

The other reason why we were discussing film was, however, far less amusing. Modern film treads far too often the line between being "artistic", "original", "thought-provoking" etc and being quite simply very disturbed. Moral messages are no longer politically correct, nor are they in vogue, and are therefore non-existant, even in situations where their absence leaves a gaping black hole into which any kind of developing mind might fall never to emerge again.

Thus it is that, while reading the bbc news on saturday, Mylene and I began to discuss the films we had seen recently. Beginning with Le Parfum, film of the book by Patrick Suskind. In my mind, this film just about keeps its balance on the arty side of the line, it's a very well-made (if slightly tacky historically) film, that is not violent, just bizarre, despite containing the murders of not five but twelve women whose essence is needed to make the most incredible perfume in the world (and who, incidentally, are left naked…).
The second film we talked about was Scoop, one that I haven't seen but that Mylene and Jeremie went to around a month ago, and came back with good reports of. It's a comedy, but apparently somewhere in there (one of the sub-plots?) there is a serial killer bearing striking similarities to the one we've been hearing about much closer to home. Maybe someone can fill me in on its role, but Mylene was definitely in agreement that there was no kind of condemnation of this, that it was almost treated as unremarkable, the kind of occurrence one hears about all the time…
This led us on to talking about Match Point, which we'd all watched together a couple of months ago, and which is a decent film up to half way through at which point it becomes unbearable up to the end, and which deliberately leaves you unclear as to whether or not the murderer was ever caught (the stronger indication being that he wasn't, and that one is invited to be happy for him as a result).
Three films in three months–not representative of a high proportion of modern film, admittedly, but still a higher proportion than one would like to see treading that very fine line between thought provoking and simply disturbed.
And one asks oneself this: how many disturbed people does it take to make such a film? Script writer, producer, director, and probably a few other people who have to approve a big budget affair, they all have to think it's a good story, or at least an appropriate story for the cinema screen. As well as one that will sell to the modern world, clearly. It's unlikely that filmmakers are very disproportionately disturbed compared with the rest of society, so if there are that many in the film industry it doesn't bode well for the rest of us, especially when they're swaying us in that direction.

Personally, I find it hard to watch violent films anyway. Things of the nature of Ocean's Eleven or Bond don't bother me in the least, but while my friends get excited about Kill Bill, I can't watch it at all. That, I admit, is a personal dislike. What I don't think is a personal dislike is being disgusted by films that are, as I say, simply disturbed. My flatmates genuinely enjoyed Match Point. That worries me.

Now, I'm not trying to say film is the cause of all our problems, nor am I saying all modern films are like this, but it seems to me that when we look at the problems of a few individuals in society and ask ourselves, how could anyone even think about doing these things, or when we say "oh, they are mentally ill" we should perhaps stop to think about whether it's not them but the whole modern society that is psychotically disturbed, and whether it might be a good idea NOT to make feature films that require an intelligent, rational, stable audience. Because all it takes is one individual to miss the artistic value or misunderstand the fiction of the film slightly and you could be getting far more real-life chaos than we currently have.

What a depressing post. We had a good weekend really!! Must go and teach…

Since writing all that, Mark has quite rightly pointed out that what I say about Match point isn't really fair on the film, nor is it really what I wanted to say. Here is Mark's opinion, with which I agree…(hope you don't mind me copying direct!)
"its actually a very brave and honest film which acknowledges that real life stories don't generally conclude in an hour and a half, or have a positive moral lesson to take away from them. despite that, i'd be very surprised if anyone had fallen into any kind of moral abyss as a result of watching match point. i personally found it quite morally affirming to watch the remorse and hysteria he started to develop and which would only get worse. he's a tragic hero not too disimilar to macbeth - the reason you empathise with the character is that he has a lot of good qualities - it wouldn't be of interest if he was just some cackling villain who would obviously never exist. he's just a realistic character with some good and bad qualities, who allows himself to get into a position where the bad qualities overwhelm the good ones, and that's the tragedy of the story. and in any case its not as if he really escapes punishment - i would personally much rather go to jail than start seeing visions of people i'd murdered. its much like macbeth or crime or punishment, if anything its a study of morality - its all about how most people cannot do terrible things and not feel the moral consequences of them."

Yes–absolutely, and it's a highly successful very well made one at that. I think what I wanted to say before, using Match Point as an illustration, was more about what our making of films about these realities tells us–that is, that . I think it's a good sign that we can make intelligent, meaningful, speculative studies like this one, and that we are introspective, capable of seeing the weaknesses in ourselves and our lives. But I don't like the fact that this is praised as us acknowledging the brutal realities of modern society and yet no one stops to talk about the fact that this necessarily requires that *being* realistic. We love studying it but there's no one saying wait, this shouldn't be reality. It's almost like we take these people, these behaviours, for granted.
While I admit that Macbeth is the same sort of character and that clearly these kinds of stories are not limited to modern film, it seemed to me that the frequency with which we encounter such things these days and the extent to which they are regarded as nothing out of the ordinary was worth raising an eyebrow at? But perhaps I am wrong…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Exciting phone news

I should have said earlier, that owing to Mylène's expert negotiatory powers, we will very shortly have unlimited (yes, unlimited) phone calls to foreign landlines in many countries (including greece, germany, italy, uk…). As a result, if any of you have landline numbers that you think I might not have, please send them to me :) thank you!

Student Life

I think I might have too many reminders?!

A snapshot: today is Tuesday. At 10am I have already finished work and I arrive back home. The kitchen table contains:

Empty sorbet tub
3 clean bowls
2 dirty bowls
1 empty bottle of something Gareth was drinking last night
Our very chic candle strip
Tomato ketchup
1 baguette
1 card game
1 dvd
Kitchen roll
€1,15 loose change

Fete de la Lumière

The 8th December has been a special day in Lyon's calendar since 1852, when it was the inauguration day for a statue of Mary at Fourviere, to say thank you on behalf of the town for their being saved from La Peste by her. (Excuse my slightly incomplete historical knowledge…). On that day, the Lyonnais spontaneously lit candles at all their windows and came out into the streets to celebrate, and the 8th has been celebrated in this way ever since. However, since the 1990s it has grown into a big festival and since 2001 has been officially four days long, with light displays all over the main town spaces. So it is that each year thousands flock to Lyon for the weekend to see the lights, and all the Lyonnais are eager to see what this year's creations will be like.
This year, a rather blowy thursday led to a friday of heavy rain…but this was not enough to discourage us excited year abroaders, and so equipped with umbrellas (in my case one that had seen better days) and my weatherproof camera, we set off to discover the 'central event' of the fête, which is a candlelit procession from the Cathedral in Vieux Lyon up the hill to the Fourviere Basilica, accompanied all the way by speakers blasting cheesy 'merci marie' songs, at the end of which there is then a mass whose congregation spills out of the church. On our way up, we were just having a debate with Max about the meaning of the word 'train' (in English, not French) when we were accosted by a TV journalist and his camera man, who asked us what we were feeling about the procession. Three stereotypical responses later, we moved on up the hill. Down in town again, rather bedraggled and annoyed by people with umbrellas, we took a break in Bellecour to dry off a bit and install candles on our own window ledges. But then, keen to see more, we set off once more in the direction of the Hotel de Ville. Things were really buzzing–stalls on the streets selling chestnuts, crêpes, waffles, burgers, kebabs, or mulled wine, occurred every 10 metres, and the queue, if you could call it that, to see the inside of the hotel de ville, was possibly the most sardine tin like experience I've had. Well worth the effort though, as inside the lighting effects were so good the walls actually looked painted. On we went, warmed by more cups of mulled wine, up the other hill, the Croix Rousse, where we found a very lively square lit with moving butterflies and entertained by fire artists, and complete with the cheapest wine (€1) and some rather delicious home made cake in aid of a well in Burkina Faso (as the student selling it was so keen to tell us). Lovely. Back down the hill, we once more crossed the Terreaux, where 15 spheres were suspended, changing colour and talking to each other (they were representing planets and other such heavenly whatsits), and carried on to St Nizier, a definite contestant for the best Son et Lumiere this year, and finally to Place des Celestins, where insects danced to classical music and the whole square was full of perfume. Bizarre.
Think that sounds like enough? But that was only Friday! On Saturday, there was a strike on metro and sncf (i.e. normal trains). As a result, what could have been just a brief encounter with Pete, Millie and Clare as they headed towards St Etienne to visit Lucy turned into an entire evening and morning with them, which was lovely! After fetching some pizza from around the corner, we moved off once again to Terreaux and beyond, this time seeing the traboules on the croix rousse, old passages built for transporting silks up and down the hill inside the buildings, in which there were various student light creations, not least some bobbins of silk that were very pretty. Back down to the presqu'ile again, we finished our tour at Vieux Lyon in time to see the cathedral lit up in showers of blue for the last time that evening. Sadly I didn't get to the other side of the Rhone, but I certainly saw plenty, and the party atmosphere was fantastic–crowds in the streets all night long and an impression of being at the snow ball…throughout the city!
Selected photos can be found in my facebook album at

In a moment of inspiration (or just severe boredom) while planning lessons about Christmas on Sunday, I decided to summarise the (four) 12 days of Fete de la lumiere, and it went something like:
On my first day in Lyon, my French friend gave to me…
…A tree with sparkling leaves
…2 butterflies
…3 red lights
…4 silken spools
…6 wasps a-dancing
…7 angels flying
…8 candles glowing
…9 wine pots steaming
chestnuts roasting
…11 brollies dripping
…12 spheres a-talking

Chris Thomas and I agree that Cambridge needs a big festival like this. Suggestions on a postcard please.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Loans, wages, and the injustice of Year Abroad finance

Those of us who, on our Year Abroad, have chosen to work or teach (those being two different things, clearly) are both students and employees at the same time. This is complex enough for us to understand ourselves, let alone anyone else, and can be very awkward to try to explain to, for example, your flatmates, or your bank manager.
As a result of this rather bizarre situation, although in the government's eyes we deserve more money (because we are living abroad), each potential source of finance individually decides that we deserve less, and so we are paid a "work experience" salary and we receive a fraction of our student loan. This in itself is not a great problem, since with the two put together one can live.

However, the injustice goes further than that. In as far as the loan is concerned, the Student Finance forms fail to include a suitable box to teach for the Teaching Assistant situation, forcing one to be either on 'paid placement' or 'study abroad'. As a result, no two british councillers fill in the form the same way, and we all receive totally different amounts of loan, varying from about 1/3 of the full loan, to its entirety. My personal experience was that I asked a Student Finance advisor, who clearly hadn't a clue what I was talking about and told me to send a letter about what I was going to be doing (which I duly did). But there are thousands of us every year, and have been since before loans began: they surely ought to get familiar with our case?!

On the other side, as regards wages, we are paid about half the salary of a normal teacher ( i think), for doing 12 hours a week, when "normal" teachers in France do 15-18 hours. According to the powers that be, this ought to be enough to live on. They also like to tell us that with only 12 hours a week, we will have lots of time to travel around, and to experience the French culture. However, they fail to mention that this will only be possible if we finance it ourselves (and, incidentally, we don't have the right to take on other contracted part-time work).

Most of the assistants I know are paying between €300 and €450 in rent per month. Add to this €100 for food (which is only feasible if you are eating tesco value equivalent everything and not much at that), €30 for dinner out once a month and €50 for a few evenings in the pub and maybe a concert, or a trip to the cinema. Then there's the Técély (metro card) at €30 and phone credit or contract at €30/40. Put together, we're already at €690, which means that if you ever want to go back to england or you go to Paris for the weekend (each at more or less €100), that's your €760 easily used up. Don't forget you also have to pay £200 a term fees to cambridge (but that's why you have a loan as well as your salary).
Forget the weekend of skiing at €110, forget clothes and shoes, books in french, letters and presents to send home. Forget buying cheese on the market at €5 a piece. Forget singing lessons or subscriptions to various other activities, or dance classes at €10 a time. Forget all those visions you had of visiting your fellow year-abroaders for friendly gatherings in their different European hideouts.

On the other hand, some assistants have the wonderful fortune to be housed by their school at a rate of €0-€75 per month, giving them at least an extra €300 a month to play with. Now that equates to three weekends away, two new pairs of shoes and three or four more dinners out, posh food, cinema once a week and regular dance classes. You get the idea. Now that is very nice for them, but one wonders whether the salary was designed with them in mind, or with us in mind? It certainly makes us gasp when we compare their life abroad with the life of someone stuck in the banlieue paying through the nose just because they're foreign.

I'll stop there as the rant's gone far enough and i don't want to suggest we don't have enough money to be able to live well out here (as I say, thank goodness we get some loan) but I don't think there's any harm done in pointing out the injustices in the system(s), is there? And this time, it's not just the fault of french paperwork…At least we can be thankful we get more than a full time intern in a paris office, c. €300).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Matters ecclesiastical

Today I went to Lyon Anglican Church a.k.a 'easychurch' (see "Spreading the Word of God to English speaking people in Lyon". It was a service of lessons and carols for Advent, "The Advent Hope".

Liturgy: Is something the Orthodox church has
Advent wreath: Blue metallic candles, a purple one in the centre
Hymn book: Mission Praise (The Complete)
Pew Bibles: Yes
Chasuble: No
High Altar and Reserved Sacrament: Not in a month of Sundays
Organ: replaced by small group of assorted musicians including exciting african drum
Hymns: A few good ones, but bad word changes and some classic rubbish ("His saints…will meet Him in the air" made me laugh particularly)
Language: Modern except for some invading 'thy' in the Lord's Prayer
Flowers: There's a potted palm tree in the sanctuary
Coffee: Yes, and even what purport to be Jaffa Cakes!
Youth group: definitely
Banners: Several
Involvement of people: Very keen
Multiculturalism: High

When the vicar asked me what church I went to at home, his response was "Ah, not quite like this then". No, says I, but it's not a bad thing to see a different church from time to time. And indeed, it's not. Having been fully prepared for a happy-clappy experience, I was actually rather pleased with what I found this morning. Musically dodgy at times, but nevertheless much better than the catholic churches where it would appear that 490 of the 500 people there don't have a clue how to sing the hymn, and most don't even try. Lots of young readers, which was good, and a community that notices you–I met a lovely (English) family who invited me to lunch at their house, in fact it turned out that their daughter who is also on her year abroad was Cecily's roommate at school and is now at University with Sarah! The world is very small. Apparently the man who is in charge of their music is also involved with the Chemin Neuf community so there might be an opportunity to discover more about that too.
Until now, I'd tried a few different churches near me. First, I went to the Cathedral (St Jean) but although I quite liked it, after discovering that their 60-strong girls choir was amplified and that their adult choir was rubbish, I decided to move on. Next I went to St Bonaventure, an old Franciscan church of grand proportions at Cordeliers. I liked this a lot: relaxed and with a decent proportion of young people, and interesting sermons. Also, they have an organ recital series before the evening mass at 7pm on the first sunday of every month. Lovely. However, I thought I'd better try at least one more, so off I trotted to St Nizier, an enormous cathedral-like church not far from Bellecour. This too I liked: so big a congregation that it's full to bursting on Sunday morning and there are not enough seats unless you get there early, lots of young families and what looks like a decent student-age lot as well. The one problem: despite helping set up their 'crèche' (crib scene) last sunday, there isn't really any way of being known/getting to know people in such a big church…I shall keep going sometimes, but it remains a bit of a mystery (there is no coffee after mass, for example). So I thought today that it was time I showed my face at the Anglican outpost, and there we are, something very different, but pleasing in its own way! Watch this space for more thoughts on church matters…

Thursday, November 23, 2006


A couple of posts back I mentioned having observed a 'french nose' around Lyon. Well, it seems I now have confirmation that this is not just a figment of my imagination. Today I did "What is britishness?" with my terminales renforcés. We started by brainstorming what came to mind when someone said to the students "I am british". And the first thing to go up on the board? "Strange noses". Only later did we get as far as red phone boxes, double decker buses, cooked breakfast, the Queen, etc…

Today I also managed, unintentionally, to inspire one boy to be an estate agent when he grows up. I hope this counts as a good deed…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Home time

Many of you know already that I am not (sadly) coming home for the Snowball, however I shall be in Cambridge both in December, 22nd-31st and in February 11th-19th, and hope to see as many of you as possible then!
This is also advance warning that i shall be giving another recital in the fitzwilliam museum, on Feb 18th at 1.15pm, to which you are all more than welcome (I shall remind you nearer the time ;-) ). Meanwhile, if any of you know of (or are) a good pianist, let me know…

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

People watching

Taking the metro every day is a good opportunity to do some people watching. Someone (Claire I think) mentioned the 'french nose' the other day, so I have since been observing people' s noses (perhaps one could say I was being a bit nosey?!), and it is very true that there is a french nose and that more than half the people on the metro here have it. But there are hundreds of other things that one can observe (without the need to stare at people, obviously). Where they are goine, what mood they are in…their nationality (I'm used to observing that from touting on silver street!). Today there was a man who at a glance was not very clearly french, he could have been british, american, swiss, belgian…suprisingly, he was a businessman (there are not many around), and was dressed for the city: white shirt, smart black coat. He had a briefcase cum satchel that could easily have been german. However, he was wearing a singularly bizarre pair of rather narrow grey trousers with orange pin stripes. Definitely French.
Of course, much of this is just stereotypes. But they have to be based on some kind of evidence to start with, don't they…

Monday, November 13, 2006


The following is a link that will permit all non-users of facebook to access my Rome photo album. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Photos of Lyon (part 2)

Here, as promised, are a few more photos of Lyon:


Almost the entire centre of Lyon is one way (though, thankfully, not one way in the same direction). While I was walking around this didn't bother me. In fact, I didn't really notice. But now that I am tending to cycle places, it is remarkably unhelpful. Some of the one-way roads have a contra-flow bike lane as well, but some do not. If they do, this will not always join up with a road going in the right direction so often one has to pretend to be a pedestrian with wheels for a short section of one's journey in order to cross the traffic that is going the wrong way (or, for them, the right way). It also means that successfully arriving at a destination is no guarantee of your knowing how to get back again! But I am gradually working it out, and the rivers make navigation quite easy–you can check where you are by what the nearest bridge looks like.
Learning where the nearest source of 'velo'v' bikes is is a bit like knowing the metro map off by heart, or knowing what time the last metro leaves: Very Important Information that I have never needed to know before. I have also discovered that the velo stations are never actually in the exact spot where they are marked on my colourful velo map –this is not surprising, as the french are not a map-using people, and far prefer to wander or to ask someone, if they need to find something. So clearly eyes and a pictorial memory are more useful than maps when it comes to knowing where the nearest bike might be :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Only the French…

…would have their curtains outside their windows. The building oppposite has not got shutters on its windows, but rather, blue roller blinds. But the blinds are on the outside, so they blow around like flags and get wet if it rains. Since when did that seem like a practical idea, I wonder.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A cultural half term

For the first time in a few years, I have a half term holiday! Such an exciting prospect that I decided it merited adventure, and so I have had a week of being exceedingly cultural.
First of all, it being Thursday and therefore the only day when the musée gallo-romain here is free, Rebecca and I popped up the hill to Fourvière and briefly visited it. The amphitheatre was exciting, the models of roman Lyon and the roman road network in France were interesting, and they had quite a nice exhibition on the old celtic religion, but the rest was a bit too much like every other roman museum ever…definitely have to be in the right mood to spend a lot of time looking at it!
After that, we trotted over to the Epicerie, which definitely ranks as my favourite café in Lyon so far. Its speciality is 'tartines' but it also does yummy puddings and pick-n-mix sweeties, and has good tea and coffee. It's like a little bit of french country in the middle of the city and the waiters are young and friendly. I had a cup of tea and a 'tartine douceur', while rebecca chose an option with chicken and roasted vegetables, v yummy.
From there we wandered on to the Opéra, where a *five hour* Lohengrin marathon was awaiting us: three and a half hours of opera in three acts, with two forty-five minute intervals between them. We were sat in the third circle (or 'balcony' as they like to call it) and the whole seating experience was rather confusing-people didn't seem to sit in the same seats after the intervals…but we could see the subtitles (the ticket lady said we wouldn't be able to) and had an excellent view of the stage. A very good production, though it had its bizarrities, not the least of which was that Lohengrin himself was enormous and appeared dressed in a very shiny silver suit, with suave gelled back hair…all a bit mad.

Anyway…it was a very good way to spend €10 and five hours of thursday evening. On Friday morning I upped and out to the railway station in rather a hurry in order to catch my train to Chambéry. The train came in, we piled on…and then waited…and at the time when it should have gone they simply announced, "good morning ladies and gentlemen, this train will leave in about ten minutes". Fifteen minutes later, the train did leave, no explanation given, although they did kindly tell us our connection was going to wait for us. So, the connection left Chambéry about five minutes late, but somehow lost another half hour in the mont blanc tunnel, and a further twenty minutes at the border station the other side, eventually arriving in Milan a whole hour and ten minutes late. I therefore had to look for another train to Bologna, and found one called a 'tBiz' which does Milan-Rome stopping only at Bologna and therefore gets there fast. It turned out (perhaps I should have guessed from the name) to be a business train, choc full of people in suits with laptops and swish mobiles, although there didn't appear to be any kind of rule against "normal" people taking it. Strange. To make my day even more crazy, it turned out that my brand new french mobile didn't work in Italy, as apparently it has to be 'activated' in some way (this seems utterly ridiculous in the world of E.U, to me), and so I ended up contactless for a whole five days!
Upon arrival in Bologna, Pamela met me in a state of 'still hung over from the night before' (not good…), but things improved and we had a nice meal out at Belle Arti before going for a drink with Drews and his jamaican friend as well. The following morning Pamela cooked full english breakfast (wow), which was muchly tasty indeed! Lots of fun :D but then I had to leave the lovely city of Bologna once more, and get on a swish eurostar to Roma Termini, where I arrived at lunchtime and found my incredibly basic hostel. The lift appeared to be about to break, I'm not convinced they have regular safety checks in such places…ach well. My roommates were friendly, including a lovely tasmanian couple who reminded me a lot of mark and tasha (for those of you who know them), and a danish girl called Rebecca who like me was travelling alone, and so we spent monday exploring together.
On Saturday I did the colosseum and forums before meeting Natalie for dinner at one of Rome's best pizzerias (it was, indeed, very tasty) and a drink at a bar in the Campo de' fiori. Sunday was Natalie's day off, and also her flatmate Tiffany's. Tiffany is a guide at the Vatican museums, and so together with her boyfriend Mirko (whose broken leg rather conveniently meant we could skip the ENORMOUS queue) we went on a totally free tour of the Musei Vaticani, and then Natalie and I also visited S Pietro. So much to see, and soooo many crowds of tourists, so a long hard day but most definitely worth it! And a privelege to have a guide tell us where to go and what to look at. In the evening, we went back to Natalie's lovely cosy flat in Trastevere and then ate at a restaurant nearby where a particularly crazy waiter tried to offer us every single plate of food he brought out! Madness. Feeling a little museum-ed out after Sunday, I decided to take things at a more relaxed pace on Monday, and the only priorities were the Pantheon and the Fontana di Trevi. The danish girl who was in the bunk above me in the hostel had similar plans, so we decided to go together, and spent all day just wandering in the parts of the city we hadn't yet explored much: Quirinale, Pantheon, a few churches along the way, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese (we spent an hour or two in the park, which was lovely especially with such good weather-it was a good 25 degrees), and a gelato in Piazza Navona before popping back to the hostel for a couple of hours and eating nearby where the waiters thought we were swiss and had an argument about which of us they liked better. Romans are funny! On Tuesday Natalie had another day off, and so we walked together to the Circo Massimo via the Jewish quarter, sauntered up to Piazza del Parlamento to eat in a lovely little cafe, and then toddled back to Trastevere to make essential purchases (notably panettone) before I had to take the bus back to catch my sleeper train.
The train left Termini ten minutes late, and in my compartment there were only three of us: a young parisian couple and I. We had a lovely peaceful ride for the first couple of hours, but then all went a little crazy when an oriental couple got on at Florence with a big suitcase and two very heavy cardboard boxes of goodness knows what and proceeded to want to go to bed (it was only about 9 pm). A fifth person joined us at Milan, with an even bigger suitcase that hardly fit anywhere. Somehow, despite it being the night, the train managed to arrive 45 minutes late at Dijon and so I, along with a couple of californian students, had missed our connection, and ended up in Lyon at 11 instead of 9. Still at least we had each other, and a pack of cards, to keep ourselves amused on the journey! Not to mention a double decker train.

Rome was lovely, and, as Natalie and I were discussing yesterday, incredible if you actually think about every bit of Roman building that you walk past. Yet, unfortunately, there is so much that we have a tendency to start ignoring a lot of it. And, which is worse, the Romans don't take care of it well, in as far as the city is dirty, very polluted, and covered- everywhere -in graffiti.
I am going to go and get some sleep now, as the sleeper train was not the best night's sleep ever–but will add more to this very soon-watch this space!

Monday, October 23, 2006


…and secondly, the work side!
I've now been at school for three and a bit weeks (one observing week and two teaching weeks), and time has flown by. My twelve hours are spread 4 monday, 1 tuesday, 5 thursday, 1 friday, and 1 to stack up and use in the second half of my contract (after january) on specific practice for oral exams. The tuesday and friday hours are both 8.20-9.15, which means a very early start (metro at 7.30, which is always a sardine tin although not a business-man in sight), but also a nice early finish leaving me the rest of the day to get on with other things, or plan my next lessons! The English teachers at school are all lovely in their different ways, although slightly confusing because they all want me to do different sorts of things with their classes, some give me totally free choice, one actually prepares my lesson for me, others like to discuss topics to do with them…some like me to base it on what they're currently doing in class while others want it to be complementary. The classes I have are:
Seconde, Première and Terminale "Euro"–yr 11, yr 12, yr 13 classes doing the European Baccalaureat which means they learn (and take exams in) history and geography *in English*.
Première and Terminale "Renforcé"–yr 12 and yr 13 who have chosen 'further english' as one of their Bac options
Première and Terminale S, L: "Normal" classes of yrs 12 and 13, who are doing sciency bacalaureat or literaryish one.
The classes I have are almost entirely half-classes (and I then get the other half the following week), so between 8-15 students. 15 is quite a big group, 8 much much more easy to work with, although 15 can make for good team games. Although a lot of what I am doing reminds me horrifically of what I used to have to do in assistant lessons, I'm not quite doing just conversation, but lessons about cultural topics with the main emphasis on oral work. It's fun, but it's very strange being the teacher and realising that only four years ago you were in the same position as your class. Especially when you can see things both from the teacher's position and the student's, and you realise how much you never thought of at school…Odd. But satisfying when it works and they are interested and keen.
The Euro classes are the nicest. The renforcé classes, strangely, are the worst. The most annoying thing is that by the time they get into 'première' the kids seem to have got utterly bored and/or have had all imagination drummed out of them, so I actually often find the seconde are nicer to teach. The French system of 'laicité' means that you are constantly treading a thin line as soon as you start talking about politics or culture…which, as an assistant, is exactly what one is asked to do. Also, as a result of never really having been educated about other cultures or viewpoints the students find it really hard to empathise with other groups of people and to imagine themselves into situations.
They are taught, endlessly, about America. They know almost nothing about Britain apart from the usual stereotypes (it always rains and the food is disgusting but the people were quite nice). This too seems rather bizarre to me, and so this year is going to be a British culture intensive course. If you can think of anything particularly fun or quirky do suggest it! To French students, France is the centre of the world (of course) and so I was amused to be asked the other day "why do you have a french name?"
The school system is bizarre in that, in a lycée the size of hills road (well, nearly–over 1000 students) there are no departmental offices or corridor pigeon holes, so no way of contacting teachers outside lessons, nor is there anything like form-time or registration, at which the class might gather and be given general information by their class teacher. What there are are "CPE" (conseiller principal d'education) who are employed full-time to do registration admin (given them on a slip by every teacher from every class) and to deal with disciplinary issues. It's all rather different.
School choir is amusing, as they are putting on dido and aeneas (purcell) in English. But the music teacher's well-meaning english pronunciation is rubbish. I am making friends with the girls who do singing at the conservatoire, and we are laughing about it together (and trying not to gang up *too* much on the poor music teachers).
So far, apart from introducing myself to the classes, I've done lessons on the english school system, Britain's place in the E.U, Gandhism, Hallowe'en, Tongue twisters, W H Auden "Stop all the clocks', Ambitions and dreams, 1920s America, Green Living, English houses, The history of Cambridge (town), and multiculturalism in Wembley. To name but a few.
More news soon: time to think about what to do tomorrow morning!

Fun things

Well it's now a rather long time since I reported any 'news' in my blog, as various of you have been pointing out, so I thought I'd better update you on both halves of my life in the last two or three weeks…firstly, the social side:
Life in 'colocation' continues to go very well indeed, we've now de-cluttered several of the bits of furniture that were clogging our corridors up, built a big double bed in the living room and decorated the sofas with african throws in a blue theme, plus we bought a coconut plant from ikea so it now appears much more settled and homely. We've also cleaned the windows in the kitchen and our bedrooms, so life is much more sparkly and doesn't always look like it's raining! A definite improvement. My curtains are still not quite up (though I have shutters too so it doesn't really matter) as the hook fell off the wall. Oops. But I do have speakers for my laptop, so the film-watching and music potential of my computer has improved manyfold. Washing up is getting a little rarer, not least because I appear to be the only person who ever clears the rack of clean things, but that is only to be expected. Visitor frequency has gone down so the living room has been more available for film watching and game playing and (I'm there at the moment) working, which has been nice and sociable. Meanwhile everyone is settling into their particular weekly routine, full of work, sport and the odd spot of music practice. And at least three parties, in Max's case.
My hunt for a choir finally resolved itself 'lors de' my audition for the Choeur d'Oratorio de Lyon on october 11th. I arrived somewhat out of breath as the place where it was was at the other end of a VERY long road from the metro station I had gone to, and so I had been somewhat in a rush. As a result I didn't sing incredibly well during my two pieces, but I polished my halo by sight reading a piece of ?Debussy?, at any rate something complex and french, in french, in a manner which I thought passable but the choir director, after saying that I'd pronounced all my 'u' too openly, promptly told me it had been superb and that she would therefore have me in her choir. Slightly apprehensive therefore about the level of sight reading I would encounter, I stayed for the rehearsal. It's a 40-50 strong choir, to all intents and purposes the partner choir of the Orchestre National de Lyon, so well-publicised and reasonably well-known. They can't all sight-read perfectly by any means but most of them can sight-read (which is something), and they all have nice, trained, voices. Plus there are some students there (the average age is probably not much above 35), and I went out for a drink with them after rehearsals last wednesday and they seem lovely. More friends! The choir rehearses most wednesdays, some weekends, and gives about a concert a month, and there are about 4 concert programmes during the year: the first includes fauré requiem (what a surprise), the second will be mahler 3rd symphony (girls only), then later in the year there's a beethoven mass, a programme of spanish polyphony, and the last of the year poulenc stabat mater. Some things I've done before but most that I haven't so I think it will be fun. Also, I went on a 'velo'v' (a city bike) for the first time to get to my rehearsal on Saturday, and although it was a little scary I managed to stay on the right side of the road and use the right brakes, and not get lost!
On Wednesdays I've taken on a babysitting job, playing with a little, very bubbly three year-old called Camille. She is not bothered at all that I talk to her in English sometimes, and not at all phased by me being there despite not being used to babysitters, and apparently usually she will have a nap (otherwise four hours can be quite tiring!). She is also mad about Mary Poppins. Hopefully I will get a photo of her with her favourite toy 'caillou' and her big long-haired cat "Aristote" soon.
Last week I had my 'stage d'accueil' at school which was a pointless waste of time in all ways but one, which was that I did at least get to meet the other english assistants, among them a lovely girl called Claire who is as mad as I am and who has done the Oxbridge yo-yo thing the other way round to me (born in oxford, lived in cambridge, now at Oxford). Bizarre eh. Anyway so Claire, Hattie and I have been discovering Lyon a bit together since and it has been lots of fun. On Friday we three plus max, gareth, olivier, lesley, jean-matthieu, chiara (an italian assistant from perugia), rebecca and victoria went to see Snow Patrol and a couple of bizarre French bands (one good, one definitely less so) play at a place called "le Transbordeur", which has a lot in common with the Junction. €15 and a lot of fun, although it was chucking it down with rain so going and coming home were less pleasant.
Actually, I'm telling all this in the wrong order but never mind. One monday a couple of weeks back was the Old Lyon Pub Crawl. 7 pubs and at the end if your team had all been to all 7 you got a t-shirt. Lots of students, good fun had by all.
Went to see "Le parfum" at the cinema, a veeeeery strange film. Thinking of going to see 'The Queen' sometime soon…the english teachers at school were raving about how good it was today. Anyone agree?
A couple of weekends ago Max, Antonia and I went to the "Ile Barbe" a tiny island in the middle of the Saône, not a lot to see but quite cute all the same and a good place to go to have a barbecue/play cards on the 'beach'.
Saturday before last I went to coffee at one of the english teachers' houses, met her family and her dog "rugby". She has two daughters around my age–one wasn't there, but Eve seemed very nice and hopefully I will get to know them a bit better. Marie-Claude's husband was telling me all about 'Belle du Seigneur' by Cohen which is a huuuuge novel (1968) which I am now dying to read (but first, my year abroad project…).
Tomorrow I have one more lesson before half term, and we are going out to dinner with all the language teachers and all the assistants at my school, which will be lovely. On thursday I have my second singing lesson with Veronique (had my trial lesson and it went very well so I am now subscribed for a year of such…) , then I am going to the musée gallo-romain because it's free on thursdays, then I'm going to the Opera (Lohengrin) with Rebecca, and…on friday…I'm going to Bologna, then to Rome for the weekend!
Hope that is enough to be going on with…will update again soon-and more pics of Lyon coming up!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

France: the strange, the annoying and the utterly illogical

So, I thought it about time that I told you some of the more ridiculous aspects of my life in Lyon. In particular, I'd like to give you all a taste of how absurd French bureaucracy is. So, in a quick summary…
1. To start with, it is no joke to say that arriving in Lyon for the year on september 19th was, in some ways, already too late. As for all those I've met who arrived after that, they didn't stand a chance. Everything that is music, sport or other activities begins 'inscriptions' on september 1st and most of them finish 'inscript'ing people on september 29th. To 'inscrire' you usually need money, and that needs to be a cheque. Cheque books take two weeks to arrive (do not ask why) and so you need to have set up your bank account more than two weeks before you try to do this. Which means, before the middle of september. Thankfully I wasn't too late for *everything* and in some cases if you've missed 'inscription' you can just turn up anyway. But imagine if you came to Lyon for a six month 'stage' that began in, say, January. You would be, quite honestly, stuck. D'oh.
2. There is nothing, not even the helpful country notes from the British Council, that clearly tells you in what order to go about attacking the stacks of paperwork when you arrive, yet there is definitely an order. Bank account comes number 1…but to get that you need an 'attestation de domiciliation' (proof of address)-fine if you are living with someone who can 'atteste' you but not if you're living alone. Then, you need to fill in work contracts and social security forms, house contracts (for which you need endless pointless pieces of paper, including your parents' details even if they can't be your rent guarantor because they're english and even if you have proof of your salary). Only once you have finally got through this (the agency will always tell you a different set of papers on the phone to when you actually arrive there) can you then apply for the 'CAF' which will give you back some of your rent money. A lot of amusement can be gained by discovering whether by claiming you are 'concubiné' with another flatmate you could both get more money…this is, apparently, the only situation where non-married couples receive extra benefits. Don't even start asking why.
3. The bank will eventually send you a letter telling you to collect your bank card from the branch…that is fairly standard, what you don't expect is that you will then pay a further two visits to the bank before they do actually have your card there. Nor that they will then fail to tell you that your cheque book is also there for you to collect. In the meantime, the one thing that will arrive will be your internet banking access codes. Okay, thinks you, I'll pay my rent by online transfer. Ah no, for to do that, you must add the recipient as a 'beneficiaire' and then wait for the bank to *post* you a confirmation code, before you can proceed. In other words, it is 20 times faster just to go to your branch. However, if, like Hattie, your branch is a long way away, you are even more stuck because other branches of the same bank will tell you they can't deal with your account. Helpful.
4. School. It is well crazy. I got "convoqué" for my training course (if you can call it that) last friday. I got three copies of a sheet of paper telling me I had been convoqué, whereas Tom (the other assistant) didn't get one at all. There was no kind of explanation of how to understand the form (there never is, all forms in france are incomprehensible and unexplained), and half of the paper was taken up with a form to fill in for 'remboursement des frais' (travel expenses) despite the fact that the paper clearly stated just lines above, that no expenses were to be reimbursed. Given the general level of french of the assistants (not to be boastful, but those of us who can actually speak well on arrival are in a minority) I would be very surprised if most would have understood the little tiny print saying 'vous etes convoqué pour le stage suivant:' meaning it's your legal duty to attend. And goodness only knows why I needed it three times (and the headmaster bothered to sign all three…).
The students have a form tutor, or "professeur principal" but they have no registration, assembly or form time (each teacher takes a register of their group every lesson). So how the devil do they get information? As far as I can work out they have a form rep who goes and gets stuff in the morning but who knows how the teachers actually communicate with the classes. It's a very complex system. In addition, the kids can never have trouble with their homework as there's no way of finding teachers other than "lurking" around their classroom at the end of a lesson, totally impractical when everyone's rushing to the next class…
For some unknown reason teachers, even 'part-time' ones like me who are not civil servants unlike the others, are not allowed to take another part time job (the social security computer would crash…apparently. Sounds like a rather stupid computer system to me), although apparently we can apply to be allowed to by filling in yet another piece of paper that will go through school headteacher and regional education man, and probably be lost in some black hole of paperwork. As my friendly teachers pointed out the other day, this is absurd because with an assistant's salary you might have time to travel but you certainly don't have a lot of money!
5. Shop assistants and receptionists. Perhaps it's just me, but my impression is that in England people try to sell you things. Here it is totally not the case. There are loads of people on the street shoving leaflets into your hand…but if you go into a shop, the shop assistants are either apathetic or plain unhelpful. If you are looking for something they don't have, they just say sorry no, they will not try to sell you something similar, nor will they suggest where you might find it. If you ask what they have in the way of…they'll show you one, but they won't try to encourage you to get the next most expensive one because it has this or that advantage. If there's some kind of a promotion the chances are you'll have to specifically ask for it, they won't tell you about it…

Time to plan some lessons now so i'll finish this later…thank you to all of you who've sent me letters/postcards recently–replies coming up soon!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A little known fact

There are 130,000 students in Lyon.
That's more than 4 times as many as there are in Cambridge, even if you include APU "Ruskin"…

How do I know? Because the town has put up posters around the place to welcome them. I think maybe the lyonnais aren't very interested in posters, as my class this morning had no idea there were so many…

Incidentally, the first transport strike of my year abroad is on thursday. Yay.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lyon-first photos

Some views of Lyon taken from the top of Fourvière hill…
Firstly, a view to the modern city centre, the big big big square with a statue in it is Bellecour and I live just on the left hand far side of it…

Secondly, La Cathédrale de St Jean…

Thirdly, Sally and a panorama of the Presqu'ile…

Fourthly the Fourvière Basilica, west facade

and finally, the kitchen at our flat soon, hopefully, also to be adorned by six individual photos of all the 'colocs'…


Here are a few pictures from the first two weeks "chez nous"… Lune, playing with my rug…

My bed (the room's been changed round now, but getting a duvet and pillows was a very important stage…)

Mymy, Antonia, Max and Blandine in the living
room the first day I arrived…

…and last but not least, Max with a chicken carcass…

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Living on a main road is not something too unusual to me…but living next to the biggest public space in the centre of Lyon is even more noisy (and exciting)! There is almost always something going on in Bellecour. Last week on thursday it was a huge regional market: le grand marché des saveurs Rhone-Alpes, another day (I forget which) a promotion for the "velo'v" (city bike system), one day it became some kind of campaign to get people to walk to work, with massive white blobby people on stilts wandering around, while on sunday morning it was the starting point for a race around the city (not sure if it was a quarter marathon or what).
Today it's a big event in aid of Handicap International, with a huge stage, brass bands, drummers, and all sorts of cafes in marquees. I get the impression I'm not going to lack entertainment in this flat…

Le Tibouren

Last night we (being Mylène, Jérémie, Max, Rebecca and a Thai girl who's a friend of mylène's dissertation supervisor) went for dinner at a little restaurant called Le Tibouren. It's not a typical Lyonnais like the Bouchon round the corner from us, but when I say small I mean tiny–it only has 25 places, so booking is somewhat essential! The menu changes every day, and the same dish only comes up once a year. There's a choice of two starters, two main courses and three or four desserts, and a three course meal costs you €17. Last night,starters were a poached egg in red wine sauce or a salade with bits of pig, then half of us had a juicy "pavé de boeuf" and the other half had some sort of a shark (!), and finally the majority dessert was a "charlotte" (not what we'd call a charlotte at all, much more like a cheesecake. All very very tasty.

Yesterday I also got lots of post :) so thank you helen and cecily and everyone who's sent me letters and messages-i'll reply soon!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

French culture lesson #1

The french, when they are in the street, have not got a lot of spatial awareness. They will walk in front of you sans cesse, turn corners or cross the road without looking behind them, and if they can see that their path is on a collision course with yours they make no effort to get out of the way.

…but a place to sing?

So, I've been here over a week now. All's going well, although I still have no chequebook or bank card, or, for that matter, money. Ho-hum. These are minor details, life in "colocation" goes hyper-bien, and today I even bought us a little whiteboard memoboard thing for the kitchen so that we can leave each other messages. Cunning! Well, I thought so.
Anyhoo, yesterday I finally got myself organised with all the relevant info on the "institut de musique sacrée" and decided to go along to see what the "A la francaise" choir (which is the institut's baroque choir) was like, before moving on to the rehearsal for the mixed choir at the cathedral. However, four and a half hours later I returned to the flat somewhat depressed, and here is why:
The first choir (the baroque one) was, I suppose, between 40 and 50 people, average age 40/45 (despite supposedly being the catholic university's choir).I spoke to their chef de choeur, who said it was fine for me to listen and that I could audition next week, he then went off to finish auditioning this week's candidates and left the choir in the capable hands of his assistant who is English and, amongst other things, used to be at Canterbury cathedral. I introduced myself to him and he immediately said that although he didn't want to frighten me away, the choir was good by french standards but by british standards I would be bored, because french singers don't sight-read. They were singing some lovely music, but after half an hour of warm up they did spend the remainder of their two hour rehearsal on one piece, and it wasn't the first time they'd looked at it…They prepare just one concert programme and perform it twice in march, with two hours practice weekly: nice stuff, and friendly people, but a little slow-going…
So, thinking I might find better elsewhere, I toddled off to the cathedral song-school. Oh Dear. That was a mistake. There was me thinking that the biggest church in the second biggest city would have a decent choir, and certainly a decent director of music. Clearly I have been living on planet nonsense for the last 21 years. The "choeur mixte de la primatiale" fancies itself a lot, has made recordings and flashy leaflets, and promotes itself as Lyon's premier adult liturgical choir. They go on tour at least once every two years, and they like to prepare big works for concerts, as well as the usual sunday/festival repertoire: this year they're doing Brahms Deutches Requiem (YAY!! think I). Sounding good? At 8.15, as we waited for the 8.30 rehearsal, that's what I thought too. But by 8.30 there were a good 50-60 singers in the room. My audition consisted of "oh hello. you emailed me. can you read music?" to which I replied "yes" and was told I could take a seat. Once again, the rehearsal was two hours long, consisting of half an hour's warm up, an hour's sectional work note-bashing through three or four short pieces, and half an hour putting those same pieces with the men. The only comments made were about notes, none of them about style, and the maître de chappelle had a particularly vague manner of conducting the rehearsal (from the piano) The entire rehearsal (after the warm up) was conducted SEATED, and as a result the sound was not great although I could tell there were a select few with rather good voices. Average age 55/60. At one point he decided to rehearse an agnus dei for sunday's service unaccompanied. Twice through, both times choir sank by a not quite perfect tone. Mmm tasty. So I politely indicated that I had a few other choirs to see this week and that I'd let him know whether I was staying or not, and left.
So that was rather a flop. Definitely can't be bothered to sit through the cathedral choir all year, especially as I fear they are amplified in the cathedral (ugh!), probably don't have the patience to bother with the baroque choir either. However, this is by no means the end. The Institut have various other choirs, most of which are clearly equally as slow-going, but one is a gregorian choir and is new and starts next week, so I'll see about that. David the pianist guy also said he's keen to set up a sight-reading choir (shock horror)at a church in the 6eme, and he took my number so he can get hold of me for that. Hooray! And I can always set up my own chamber choir (no, really, there are millions of choirless churches round here!). Also, I have an audition for the lyon oratorio choir (of a more professional standing) on october 11th, so if I get into that it might be better (note, might…).
With choirs on the back-burner for a few days, today I turned my attention to the next problem in line, that of a singing teacher. I went to the Conservatoire National de la Région, which is the equivalent of the county music service as far as I can make out. Hélas, one has to do a concours to enter and that's happened already. However, the girl gave me three people to contact about private lessons, so that might work. Second, I went to the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et Danse, where they were totally unable to help me apart from to let me leave a message for a singing teacher I had already been recommended there, so I did that and hopefully I might hear back eventually. Meanwhile, if I want to I can enrol on a singing course at the Institut de Musique Sacrée, which would give me singing lessons and masterclasses and a diplôme at the end of the year, but I've no idea what their teachers are like and I'd have to enrol on that this week, and commit for the whole year–might phone the teachers and see if I can have a taster lesson first!
Those of you who don't sing will by now be as bored as can be. So I will shut up. Ttfn!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A place to live

Salut tout le monde!
Eleanor has helpfully suggested that my blog should be in french…so apologies to those of you who don't read french if I make it a little bilingual at times!!
Having arrived in Lyon on Tuesday I am now well settled in to my lovely flat in Bellecour, right in the centre of the Presqu'ile (which is the name for the central part of Lyon between the rivers Saone and Rhone). I even went to Ikea on the tram on thursday and am consequently now equipped with bedclothes, desk lamp and other such useful items. Sally has been here for the last two days as well and we've discovered some of the touristy things in Lyon including a rather OTT victorian marian shrine on top of the hill above the cathedral (called la Fourvière), but we have also discovered the market :D. I am gradually getting my bearings on the metro system and soon I will have access to the city's bike network as well, so getting around will be extremely easy. I now have a bank account, so although I don't yet have a french mobile nor a flat contract, I feel like i've made some good progress…
Well, first things first I should introduce you to my flat and to my flatmates who are, so far, my only Lyonnais friends, and who are all as mad as I am (thank goodness for that!)
The flat is the entire second floor of a big old french terrace (with 6 floors) at the corner of a big main road and a little side street full of little restaurants and cafés. Below are a patissier (of which more later), and a big bookshop-cum-stationers. Very useful. We've got tall windows and high ceilings throughout, a big airy kitchen, 6 bedrooms, two bathrooms, two WCs, utility room, broom cupboard/excess furniture deposit place and big living room. The only disadvantage is that we're in a rather noisy spot but it's worth it for the location, and I'm lucky enough to have the only bedroom that doesn't face a road :D.
Mylène, Jérémie and Antonia are all French though none of them originally from Lyon, and they are all at the "ENS" (école nationale supérieur) studying "Lettres Modernes" (=MML). They are the ones we have to thank for choosing this wonderful and enormous flat.
Gareth is from Darlington originally, read french and spanish at newcastle, and this is his fourth year in france, where he studies and simultaneously holds down three or four part time jobs, in private schools and in an irish pub in the old town. He's about to write a dissertation on tony blair, if he doesn't get offered too many other jobs first…
Max is a medic from heidelburg university (but from Munich originally) on an erasmus placement. He plays saxophone and clarinet, has brought the kitchen sink with him in a van (he even brought his drill, just in case it might prove useful) and is currently somewhere in the french countryside canoeing with 6 german girls…!
Lastly, there's Gigi, or Lune, Mylène's little cat. She is very small and gets extremely playful in the early afternoon, but is scared stiff of Gareth's workbag (for no apparent reason)…photos will follow at some point, I'm sure!
Right now, I'm in the kitchen. The brass band were playing in the square about 50 yards from our front door until about half an hour ago –apparently they play for two hours every saturday!-but now that they've stopped, Antonia is doing some harp practice. In true french style, although it's 7pm, no one is even thinking about cooking dinner yet, and we're not too hungry as we had brownies/meringues only an hour ago, from the chocolatier/patissier directly underneath our flat. Mmmm.
My job begins on October 2nd…until then, I've got time to try to get into as many choirs, dance classes, etc, as I can find! More news soon…Thanks to those of you who've emailed/messaged me, hope you're all well and enjoying the end of the vac/the beginning of a new year!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

An update…

Thought those of you already reading this might like to know a little bit more about where I've got to with my year abroad plans! So far, the plan is to be in Lyon for at least 8 months, my contract at the school (where I'll be a language assistant) is october-april. Here's some more about the school, which all sounds very good:

There are about 1000 students in the school and about 90 teachers for all of them. The Lycée is located in Lyon 4°. The district is called La Croix Rousse and it is a very pleasant and busy area of Lyon just 3 underground stations away from downtown Lyon. La Croix Rousse is up a hill and within walking distance of the centre of the city, which lies in between the rivers Rhône and Saône.We are fortunate enough to have plenty of foreign language assistants every year (German, Italian, Spanish or South American, Russian, Chinese, and you and another English or American Assistant whom we share with another school nearby). Also, we are the lycée for students who study and practice music or dance at a high level in the Conservatoire National de Musique, and they generally have academic classes in the morning and music practice and rehearsals in the afternoons. These students must also participate to the school choir: This year’s program will be Dido andAeneas by Purcell and anyone interested in singing can join in. There are also Theatre, Cinema and Dance options available to the students, along with a number of workshops. The students are from age 15 to 17/18.

That all came in an email from my english-teacher-in-charge, who sounds very nice indeed. So much for the job-now for everything else! I think (fingers crossed and all that) that I've just succeeded in finding somewhere to live! It's in a big flat near the old town centre (about 2 miles from my school), with 5 other people (3 french university students, one german, one english) and a cat! If that all goes ahead it should mean there'll be at least a living room where people (=you) can crash when visiting, hooray! I'm aiming to start the attempt to join a decent choir this week…so ttfn, more posts when I hear something new…

Monday, July 03, 2006

Voila, the annie blog is born


Here is a blog. Instead of sending annoying round-robin style emails to all and sundry during my year abroad (aka second gap year) in Lyon next year, I shall put my best photos and stories onto this wondrous piece of cyberspace.

I won't be writing much on it over the summer, but check back here in September and I'll keep you all updated!