Saturday, January 27, 2007

Splitting the year

Imagine if, in this post I said "so, this is the end of my Lyon adventure: at the end of the week I move on to my new job in Milan…". It would be far too soon. We're just beginning to get used to the way life goes in Lyon, to know our friends and flatmates well, and to settle down to some kind of real routine, even do some academic work and think about what we're getting from the year. Our French is becoming more natural, and our accent is finally making some small move away from the typical franglais…but only just. It needs time to consolidate its progress. The concept of calling it a day for French and heading off to new adventures might seem exciting, but I wouldn't be ready. The time would be too short in both places so the overall gain would be less. This is why Cambridge don't advocate splitting the year in half, but rather swaying towards one language. But Cambridge are unusual, and most universities not only allow, but *require* their two-language linguists to split the year. And so it is that those who've chosen foreign university have reached the end of their first semester and are leaving, to go to new adventures in other places, make new friends, improve yet another accent. Exciting for them, but strange–and strange also for us, who have just got used to them experiencing the French life with us and are now going to continue having the same sorts of fun but without them. But when they say they've done a degree in, say French and German, they will at least be able to say, I spent my year abroad in, say, Lyon and Augsburg…it might sound better than us saying we practised our French and Italian by coming to Lyon (although, this is in fact possible, as we proved tonight while talking to an italian chef!)


Thank goodness the heating works in this flat, and I had already stuffed the gaps between windows and window frames with newspaper…because it's currently reaching around -10/-12 degrees at night. Now that is what I call COLD. If only there were more pretty white stuff…this has been a bizarre winter: warm and lacking in snow, but with sudden moments of extreme cold. People sigh and mention "rechauffement de la planète" but noone does anything about it. There seems to be some kind of assumption that it's the thought that counts. That as long as we know it's happening and we're not happy with it, then it will start going away. It won't though, will it. Maybe our children will only ever see artificial snow.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I mentioned that I went to an exhibition about frontiers with Antonia. Elizabeth asks "an exhibition of what?" well, this is a good question. You can hardly pick up the frontiers and put them in glass cases. I particularly liked the introductory speech in which the 'mediatrice' told us all that scottish people are still proud of having hadrian's wall between them and England. I decided it might be best not to point out that even if they ever had been, the wall is most definitely not at the border now…it was the end of a long day, after all. But that was not really what the exhibition about. In a mixture of photography, video footage, maps, diagrams, explanatory text and sound recordings, the various stages of the exhibition told you about frontiers past and present, about frontier conflicts, about moving frontiers, about crossing frontiers…and so on. It began with the etymology of frontier (mmm etymology) in which, sadly, no one seemed very interested. We saw things about Europe, especially the Schengen plan and the expansion of the EU, we saw Korea, we saw Kashmir, India, Pakistan, we saw Israel and Palestine, Mexico and California, and the Romany gypsies. We followed the journey of an illegal immigrant from Cameroun to France, and we learned about minefields and imaginary lines in the sea. It was interesting, very interesting, and there were not a bad number of people there. But what I found most exciting about it was the concept. That someone had built an exhibition after realising that although we claim constantly to be "sans frontières" in the world (and a large part of the exhibition was contributed by the "reporters sans frontières"), although people go on and on about globalisation, freedom of movement and multiculturalism, what we actually have is a modern world that is utterly obsessed with faffing over borders and frontiers. We never usually think about it, especially not in Europe. But if you do, it's WELL true. As they say.

Meeting people

After a whole week of doing nothing (no, nothing) but work, eat, sleep and, on one exciting afternoon, go to the supermarket, I arrived at Tuesday with a lot of oomph (new word for my terminales this morning) for socialising. As it happened, while Claire and Lena had been out flyering for wistipy they had met some sciences-po students who had invited them to a post-exams party on tuesday night. And so it was that amidst flurries of snow Claire, Tine, Lena, Chiara and I piled into a bar full of French students: not that we don't have enough friends already, but meeting more French people is our constant goal as not only does it mean success for wistipy, but also French practice for us (apart from anything else). However, the usual problem se posait: how? Even when they are in the same bar as you, the instinctive thing is to stay chatting to the people you know all after a while claire and I could see this was going to get us no closer to meeting someone new, and went on an adventure. We found a girl called Charlotte, who was very keen but having introduced us to her friend they both promptly ran away in search of more excitement and so left us to explore the crowds on our own.
Francais no.1 was very drunk. He refused to accept that claire was english (apparently I was more believable) and in short, one could not have a proper conversation with him. His friend, whose name was I think Benjamin although originally introduced as Geoffroy, was much more sensible and good fun, but after a few minutes we discovered he didn't really belong in Lyon and was leaving the next day, so we decided it wasn't really worth making friends and he wasn't going to introduce us to anyone else, and so on we went. Francais no.3 seemed uninterested in the prospect of talking to two anglaises and so swiftly introduced us to francais no.4. His name was Matthieu (I'm psychic: before leaving the house, I was eating dinner with Max and I said 'agh I must go' 'oh,' says max, 'are you going out? have you met someone?!' 'yes, says I, his name is, um, Matthieu, he's beau, intelligent, speaks several languages, does sport, music...').
Anyway, Matthieu was not far off this description: he's from somewhere near Cannes in the Riviera, and in his first year at the IEP studying something like PPE/SPS (not ecology, like a friend he pointed out in order to tell us ecologists were the land economists of IEP). He's also learning Chinese in order to spend a year in China in his third year. We had a lot of fun talking about english people, french people, lyon, languages, years abroad...all sorts of things. Claire even consented to cycling home in the snow rather than leave the conversation in time to catch the metro! We were hopeful about getting him and his friends to come to Wistipy the next night, and satisfied that we had, finally, gone out and met french students, we waited eagerly for Wednesday.
The thing about Wistipy, is that at previous soirées, there have been only a handful of people, including the organisers and their friends. So this week was the big drive: claire and lena had been out flyering at the universities and had enrolled a dj by the name of phil (who turns out to be one of natalie's best friends from glasgow…!) who had also helped them no end with spreading the word. Thankfully, this time the hard work paid off, and the cavern was full to bursting. The only problem? Almost not a frenchperson in sight, apart from the wistipy committee, who are great, but we know them already! In the middle of the evening claire and I did succeed in coming across a pair of baffled french girls who had turned up for a quiet drink at the cavern and discovered it overrun with foreigners…and stayed! By the names of Ariane and Suzanne, they seemed very friendly and Suzanne had been a french assistant at Eton for a year, so there was plenty to talk about!
Two evenings, both lots of fun, both resulting in new french acquaintances. Not bad for one week, one might say-but definitely not good enough. My cultural week continued on Thursday evening with an exhibition about frontiers that I went to with Antonia (who is a museologist and so rather into such things) and then my favourite italian film, la stanza del figlio. Tonight has some more international fun in store and tomorrow Lena is having some kind of a birthday party…who knows when we'll see the new french friends again but hopefully we can involve them in something, or go to some more of their university soirées.
Oh, and meanwhile I'm about to go out for tea with Fiona and Victoria, Fiona being a lovely French/English girl who I met on my way home for christmas (in the fog) and Victoria met on her way back out…talk about a small world!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A momentous moment (a.k.a. plug)

For a long time, my mother has been working on a book. In fact, I can't remember a time when she wasn't working on it. (Although in between times, she wrote several others). The book has been generally referred to, chez nous, as "Animals", because…it's about animals. Mostly. Momentously, it has just been published, under the title of Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers. Here's the link–Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers–that tells you all about how exciting it is. If you have a spare moment ever, you could order it in a library near you or browse it in the bookshop and, maybe, discover what we've been waiting so long for :)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ten days of visitors

Life in Lyon comes and goes in waves. Some weeks not a lot happens, some weeks everything happens. Well these last two weeks have definitely been everything weeks. Beginning with Mummy's visit from 4th-8th, during which we did all the touristy things in Lyon, went to Vienne for a day, had dinner chez the Reynaud family, went ice skating on Bellecour with Victoria, and went shopping. Oh, and ate at a Bouchon, but as we left that til Sunday night all the good ones were closed. D'oh. The weather wasn't special (much rain) but we had fun all the same and were particularly bemused by Vienne, which appeared to be largely popluated by arabs, be totally tasteless as a town, and not at all the cute little touristy haven we'd imagined, despite a very modern, huge, state-of-the art museum and archaeological site. We were also bemused by the unified belief amongst the french that Epiphany is always on Sunday (so, in this case, on the 7th Jan), but did at least get to eat galette des rois and I was the epiphany queen :). On Saturday evening Raj, Steve and Lucy came to Lyon and we ate pizza together. Yum.
Monday was Max's birthday, and back to school day for the new term. Quel joie. Believe it or not, all the teachers (not just me) were mentioning the fact that there were only five weeks til the next holidays and none of them were keen to be back. Ho hum. I arrived home from school at 5 to find Max amid a grand german tea party complete with cakes and suchlike, and after a little work we then had dinner, before I went out to collect Emma from the station.
On Tuesday, Emma and I did very little, other than wander and see the town a bit, which was jolly. We also paid a visit to the post office, where a woman tried to persuade me to buy a pre-paid envelope for €6 something (of which I was having none). The letter, when I did get round to sending it, cost €1 something. So I think I was right there! In the evening we joined Claire, Chiara and Tina for a drink at the Escal'in, a tiny cosy french bar in Vieux Lyon–and so heard about their christmasses. Wednesday we tried to go to the museum of contemporary art, but alas, a metro and bus ride later, it was "shut until february". Silly. So we wandered in the park for a while saying hello to the giraffes, lions, etc, before joining the girlies for football which we played in three against one england v germany. Lots of fun (even if i was a bit rubbish). Thursday was a big day, starting with a singing lesson, then Stu arrived (having flown out of Stansted at silly o'clock) and we ate giant pain au chocolat for elevenses with the result that none of us felt like lunch (oops). I then went to school where I was annoyed to discover two out of three classes weren't there (though no one bothered telling me) while Emma and Stu explored the wonders of Fourviere and the Roman Amphitheatres. And seemed to have fun observing the French out and about (can't imagine why). Later we went out for dinner at le Mere Jean, where we ate lots of very scrummy, very piggy (in a literal sense) food. And then were so full we couldn't contemplate doing anything so collapsed back at home. On Friday I returned from work to find Emma and Stu avidly watching the world go by out of our kitchen window. Apparently it had been highly entertaining…once they'd had enough of that we toddled off to the Epicerie for a yummy lunch (we were tempted to order 4 desserts between the three of us, but in the end restrained ourselves) then decided not to go to the textile museum lest it be a bit dull, instead going to buy stripey tights for emma and penny sweets in the shop next door, and then going ice skating in even blunter, even more uncomfortable skates than the previous time. But fun. After this, we quickly made some dinner, before claire victoria and laura joined us and we went for a few drinks at Ninkasi which was very crowded but the usual fun, and especially fun for stu as they were showing flying machines doing silly acrobatics on their tv screen.
Saturday was Free Day and we spent the morning at the market (yay!) and the afternoon at the Centre de la Resistance, which was an interesting, if somewhat sobering experience. Then there was a mad rush to cook dinner before Emma had to catch the bus to the airport (oops) but we made it (just) and so off she went back to the land of home. Stu and I returned to the flat and watched Enigma on dvd, before going to bed not too late on account of…
…getting up at 5am!! Bleurgh, that is silly o'clock. Early enough to wish Gareth a good night as he came in! However, porridge juice and coffee later, we were feeling alive enough to brave the brisk walk down the road to the post office, where we awaited the departure of our (very cramped NO leg-room) bus to Alpe d'Huez. Two and three quarter hours later, feeling a little queasy from the windy road, we piled out of the bus into what was a very cold but not particularly snowy ski resort. Having located our location de matériel, eaten our second breakfast and studied the piste map to decide on the day's plan, we set off on a very long chair lift that took us (via a bit of green run) to a nice long blue run. Lesson number one of the day was that Blue was in fact everywhere else's Red, because the easiest at Alpe d'H is Green, not Blue. However, the blue was fun and got us to the right place. Or at least, I say it did. It got me to the right place, but not at the same time as Stu. I waited a while, somewhat puzzled as to how he could have taken longer than me, but not having seen him whizz past, and not finding him at the bottom of the slope. Stupidly, we had not made any "if I lose you" plans. So after a while I toddled over to the next lift we were going to take, hoping I might find him there, then went up said lift, wondering whether he'd already gone up that one. Hélas, I found him not (at this point, he was busy redoing the same piste we'd done, as I found out later–to this day we don't know what happened but somehow we must have passed each other without noticing…)So to cut a long story short, I carried on, supposing I would find him later, but never succeeded in doing so and so explored the mountains on my own. First a blue, on which I came crashing to my knees in a very ouch manner, then a long red, to take me back to a lift which went all the way up to the middle of the resort, then I took a green one back to base (a bit icy owing to excess use). The red had no artificial snow, so was a bit thin in places, but the rest were thickly covered in machine-created white stuff :) After lunch I decided to go on an adventure to the glacier. On the way up I got to look at all sorts of exciting black runs that given the conditions looked like pure suicide. Three box lifts later, I discovered that was where all the cool kids go, as dozens of people whizzed past me. The blue piste was nice, and long, but had a few flat/uphill moments which annoyed me somewhat. Two lifts down again, which I shared with another snowboarding girl about my age, who was similarly regaining her snowboarding skills after a few years of no practice, and was going to do a nice easy descent to end the day, so we both went down the Vachettes (the biggest blue) which would have been nice at the beginning of the day but by the end was rocky and lumpy and generally not all that pleasant after all. However, I had had much fun over all, and was relieved to find Stu still alive (if slightly injured) and very happy after discovering some chatty pilot types and a very tasty lunch at the altiport…and so after purchasing food and drink (highly necessary) we embarked upon the long journey home, knowing full well we'd be mightily aching by the end of it…
Anyway before I get too carried away with the fun, i'd better run off as I have much to do this week and not enough hours to do it in. A plus, as they say…oh and, for the record, the french sales began on Jan 10th. Random. The French clearly do not understand the concept "january sale".

Habits a teacher shouldn't have…

Number 1: Finishing other people's sentences for them. I do this a lot.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The big gas hunt and other tales

Here is, at last, a shaggy dog story from the week before christmas:
It is monday evening (dark and not stormy, but rather cold), at about 5.30pm. Max is in the kitchen beginning to prepare things for a big dinner, and I, having returned from school and being somewhat tired, am sitting at my computer writing email (or something of the sort). "Annie," says Max, somewhat hesitantly, "do you feel like going for a little walk?" "Yes," says I, "why not?" "Are you sure? We need some more gas…" "Ah," says I, "now I see what you did there." But up I get, willing to go and do the duties, on the grounds that the boys are going to cook exciting dinner. I should explain–we have no mains gas in our kitchen so buy it every month in a returnable bottle. I check the map for where the gas shop is–only a short walk away really, but I decide I may as well get the metro one stop down the line and then depending how heavy the thng is, perhaps walk back. So off I go. Around the corner, I begin to have doubts: the place looks awfully shut. Sure enough, it doesn't open on Mondays. Thanks to Orange unlimited numbers, I call Max's mobile. "Annie!" he says, brightly. "Max, c'est fermé" "Non! Impossible!" Max sounds as if the end of the world is nigh as he has visions of his feast going to pot, as it were. "See my computer on the table?" I say, "go to and search for quincaillerie." Several minutes later, after much swearing at my computer for being a mac, and a few fusses with how to search the whole of Lyon, we discover that the next nearest is at Place Guichard. Three metro lines later, I step out of the metro with my gas bottle and trot to number 82 rue de la Part Dieu. A sinking feeling grows as I approach what looks remarkably like a locksmith. "Bonsoir, est-ce que vous faites le plein de gaz?" "Non, désolé" "Merci, au revoir". As I feared. I retreat out of the door once more, retrieve my phone from my pocket and at that moment receive a message from Max that hadn't delivered as I'd been in the metro: "I just rang them, they don't have it." Great. So i ring him again: "okay, where do I go now then?" It turns out I don't really want a quincaillerie, but rather, a petrol station. Racking my brains for where I may have seen one, I decide it's better if I just stay put and get Max to do the work. 15 minutes later, he and antonia have been on the phone to a few and the nearest bet they reckon is some unknown shop in the shopping centre. So i pop on the metro, arrive in a heaving shopping centre in full pre-christmas swing, and am just studying the floor plan to see quite where one might find gas refills, when Antonia phones: "We just rang the reception and they say impossible, there's no such shop." Another twenty minutes go by: I am beginning to think that if I have to get somewhere before it shuts at 7, I'd jolly better get going. We consider the option of getting a double-sized bottle from one place that's run out of little ones, but that weighs 13.5 kilos and we'd have to go back to that place next time to change it, so we're not too keen. Eventually I am sent to Sans Souci (two more metro lines) where I am already famous, as Antonia has spent a good 15 mins on the phone to this petrol station. "I'm going to give you propane, not butane" he says. "And it makes no difference?" The reality appears to be that despite it being "déconseillé", it will make no difference…but we must remember to change back to butane next time. Slightly dubious, I thank him and set off home with the wrong sort of gas, and just over two hours after beginning my 'little walk', I step through the door of the flat to loud cheers from my flatmates. Here's to hoping we don't blow the flat up. But so far so good.

And it made a VERY good dinner. So good, in fact, that we were not hungry again for three days! A starter of duck, spinach and goat's cheese salad was followed by beef cooked in duck fat and butter with a buttery onion sauce, a very creamy potato gratin, and haricots verts. For dessert, a mango sponge finger tart-like thing made by Max–and that's not to mention cheese, papillotes, and plenty of wine. The quantities were absurd– there were five of us (Gareth, Greg, Max, Antonia and I) but there was enough food to feed at least eight or nine people. Mmmm.

That was Christmas, more or less. Although the next evening Gareth decided we should be introduced to Quenelles, and so Max, Rebecca and I savoured the delights of these bizarre fish-flavoured dumplings. Odd, I think was the general conclusion. Just odd. After this very Lyonnais experience, Rebecca and I trotted off to see the new Branagh film of the Magic Flute (La Flûte Enchantée) at the Astoria cinema. With Amy Carson (recently of Trinity College Cambridge) in the lead role as Pamina, we were happy to find ourselves in the company of only a handful of other people, so could get as excited as we liked about our rather distant claim to fame (I once played in a concert she sang in; Rebecca had lectures with her). The film has a screenplay written by Stephen Fry, and is set in the 1st world war. Odd. But superb–definitely a must-see. See also Becca's blog for more about the film (link on right hand side of this page).

Who would be a modern musician?

As many of you will already know, at the point at which I flew to Lyon in September, the air security alerts were so very bright red that the thought of anyone being allowed to carry a musical instrument on board a plane were out of this world. I mean, a clarinet is obviously indicative of being a terrorist. So it was that I resigned myself to spending at least a few months without the company of my violin. I didn't even send it a birthday card on October 4th, how very neglectful of me. However, having decided to go home at christmas I began to anticipate the imminent possibility of returning with my violin, now that the rules officially state "musical instruments are permitted". So I merrily rock up to the check-in desk expecting the rules to be as they were last time I travelled with my violin, i.e. that exceptionally, one is allowed one's handbag plus one's violin, on the grounds that it is a rare and fragile item. I check in my suitcase and the girl says "have you got any sharp objects in your hand luggage?" "No." says I, "and you only have one piece of hand baggage?" "Yes, and a violin" says I. But this was not to be: you have to check in one or the other, says the girl. So I express surprise and say it's always been fine in the past, and she says ah, but these days the rules are tighter: one bag only, no exceptions. Somewhat incredulous, I ask her what she intends me to do with my money, my personal effects, and so forth: so she says can I fit them in my pockets or in my violin? And I say, well possibly but what about my computer? "You'll have to choose between your computer and your violin" says she. Well now, I'm blowed if she really believed what she was saying there. So I ask, would it be okay if I just carried my computer? You can try, she says, but you might not gt through security. Well, cunning as I am, and knowing how things work in airports, I think I have a pretty good chance, so I take out my computer, and having stuffed my camera, two phones, two wallets and a passport into the little pocket on my violin case, I toddle off in the direction of security. The man checking that everyone has only one bag doesn't bat an eyelid at the fact that I am cradling my laptop in my arms: he probably thinks I've just already got it out knowing it has to be scanned separately, and isn't interested enough to realise that there's no way it could fit in my violin case. At the other end of the queue, they are not in the least interested in how many bits and bobs you put through the scanner, and computers (as I say) have to be scanned separately in any case: there's no one chekcing it goes back in your one piece of hand luggage afterwards, so sure enough, there is no problem with my simply carrying the computer, it simply makes my life more difficult when juggling passports and boarding cards and an end-heavy violin.
Now I know logic has never really played a part in airport rules, but what really got my goat is this. The rule states "musical instruments are permitted as long as the case contains only the instrument itself and nothing else". From which one imagines, as I did, that a handbag (some work to do on the flight, one's keys and passport) would be allowed alongside. The practice, on the other hand, is quite the contrary: everything must be inside your case. Had my 'handbag' (my rucksack, in this case) been *attached* to my violin, there would not have been the slightest problem. It was simply the fact of them being two bags that bothered them. And note that two items was fine, because one wasn't a bag–I've no doubt that if my computer had had so much as a protective zippy cover over it, I would have risked being sent back by the man at the start of the security queue. So someone needs to invent a violin case not simply with a pocket on the top, but with an entire attachable/detachable bag on it. As simple as that. And thank goodness I'm a violinist because some instrument cases aren't currently made with little pockets on. Maybe I could design one and make millions…then again, maybe the rules would simply change again, as they appear to every couple of months.
Perhaps BAA need to employ someone with some real sense to define the hand baggage rules so that the check in girl no longer needs to say "well you can try, but it's not us who make the rules," nor suggest that you could easily just send one of your two valuable and delicate items to its imminent death in the hold?

All I want for Christmas is…

So, Christmas. For the first time in my life, Father Christmas didn't really come. Not that it mattered–I don't need a new toothbrush. There were stockings, but they contained the usual clementine, and at best two or three other little things, so were by no means bulging. A sign that I am growed up, clearly. My christmas list, on the other hand, was stuck to remarkably well: I received several girly magazines and an excellent book called "the Xenophobe's guide to the English", and some rather useful books about English castles and suchlike, all of which will be useful teaching resources. Also as requested were a dvd of Billy Elliot (must mend my dvd drive…) :D, a pot of marmite lots of lovely singing music (fauré and purcell), ski goggles and, invaluably, my air fare! In the way of surprises, I also received a pink sparkly fairy wand (from Grandad!), a lovely red apron, a bike computer, some euros, a pretty flower necklace, a bright green bag, a lovely wooden viol-shaped peg, seven fudge bars "seven whole days not one in seven, I will eat you…" or something (mmm), and a useful book in which to record birthdays and store birthday cards, which might possibly mean some people get theirs on time this year (pigs might fly). A game called Carcassonne also looks very exciting, but will have to wait for Saturday when Max gets back to Lyon, as the rules are entirely in German!
So there we are (as someone or other famously said). A good Christmas. I hope yours were equally exciting.

Bonne Année, Bonne Santé!

First things first–a very happy new year to you all, may 2007 be even better than 2006, and bring you (as I said in my 'discours' on New Year's Eve, of which more to follow…) health, joy, happiness and lots and lots of good food and drink. I haven't made any resolutions yet, but I really should…
I also hope you all had a good Christmas–those of you I managed to see, it was lovely to see you. I had a wonderful week at home (despite the index, owml), including family christmas, a "century" party for Mummy's birthday (at which Cecily and I managed to match spectacularly), and several tea/shopping/dinner outings with various friends. And of course, King's for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which was very good, as ever, and extra specially wonderful after surviving so long with good choral music existing only via the WWW.
Yet despite how lovely it was to be at home, off I went on New Year's Eve ready to face what was, until midday, an entirely unplanned, potentially rather dull, French Réveillon. At midday I received a phonecall from the Reynaud family (Marie-Claude is one of the teachers I work with most) inviting me to dinner, which I happily accepted and so found myself, with suitcase rucksack and violin in tow, arriving in the 6eme for a lovely French dinner, in the company of Marie-Claude, Philippe, Marianne and Eve, and their friends Sophie, Clément, Giselle and Jean-Claude. The evening began with champagne (how many 'chings' are heard in a group of 9 people?) and nibbles (including a delicious bacon and olive 'cake' made by Giselle), while speeches ("discours" as above) were given, and turned into interpreting exercises for Marianne and I (Marianne is studying English at university and will be going to England next year to be a French Assistante). After the speeches, according to Reynaud tradition, a sparkly star was placed in the middle of the floor to which each person had to kneel in reverence*. We then moved to the dinner table, for a smoked salmon starter, followed by turkey, stuffing, chestnuts, haricots verts, etc, then cheese (Philippe was especially proud of his Master, although the rest of the family seemed less keen on account of its pungent smell), and finally a delicious cheesecake also made by Giselle (photo-->).
A short pause ensued while we attempted to find parts for the Bach double violin concerto on the grounds that Eve and I could play…but when it was concluded that a trip to the attic would be required to find it, that was abandoned. And lo and behold, it was seven minutes to midnight (exactly, as we were following an atomic clock). On the dot of midnight everyone exchanged the 'bise' and wished bonne année and bonne santé to each person present–and briefly we looked to see whether there was any live tv coverage of french celebrations (like there is in the UK), but no–all we could find in the way of live programs was Buenos Aires new year, where it was still several hours too soon, and they were doing a big outdoor concert of bizarre south american contemporary orchestral music. Meanwhile, Marianne attempted to get through the busy mobile networks to discover where the party was, and once she'd succeeded she, Sophie and I headed off to find it. Sure enough, it was buzzing, a big city centre apartment full of students, most of whom had already been partying for some hours. Lots of fun and many french people to talk to, although at times a challenge to understand them amidst the hubbub of the party! Two good friends of Marianne's came along shortly after we'd arrived, Alexis and Benoit, both very friendly and fun. We stayed about two hours, but as Marianne was not feeling too well, we decided after that that it was really time to sleep and so headed off back. A lazy 'premier de l'an' ensued, involving late breakfast, lunch at 3pm and a lovely walk in the park with Marie-Claude, Eve and their adorable dog Rugby, along with some photo viewing (Marianne's holiday in Corsica). In France, unlike chez nous, it is essential to wish everyone you know a happy new year, and this must, of course, be done in an individual, personal manner–so many a text message was sent, and many a phone call made and received in order to wish all and sundry bonne année and bonne santé! The day ended with us all sat in the living room watching a quiz show, which involved family teams–the Reynaud family were so good at it, they have now decided they should be on it, so watch this space…
Anyhow, here I am back at Rue de la Barre, which is much quieter than usual (good, given I must do lots of work over the next couple of days!). Outside it is raining, but I'm hoping the rain will go away before thursday, when Mummy arrives. More posts to follow on matters various that I have failed to write about over Christmas. À plus, as they say…

* the truth of this sentence is not guaranteed.