Saturday, April 28, 2007

Broadening my teacher rôle

On Thursday of the first week back after the Easter holidays, after quite some deliberation and discussion, the Lycée finally decided to let me go on a school trip with the class I take at the collège down the road. Unfortunately, this meant that my teacher-in-charge was in a rather grumpy mood all week as she didn't want to let me go…but the go-ahead was given anyway and so it was that I had a rather out of the ordinary week that looked something like this:

Sunday: 5am –left 'home' and took the usual two metros up to the school, where were gathered 47 13-year-olds with their parents. Ticked pupils on list, reminded that they mustn't have forgotten their ID cards (one or two had). Waited. Waited some more. Bus "delayed by an accident". Eventually left just after 7.30am. Caught the shuttle anyway. Arrived at supermarket car park, Walderslade, only a quarter of an hour later than scheduled. Met Ana, our host-family coordinator was waiting. Matched children with host families. Went home with host (and other three teachers). Marvelled at tacky decor of house. Laughed at twee water feature in garden. Ate spaghetti bolognese. Wrote emails to relevant persons saying had arrived, and in Denise's case that she'd left the alarm clock on 04:30.

Monday: 07:00 got up, had breakfast (the tea, when a pot requested, came in a cafetiere), took packed lunches, filled water bottles (at tap, to disgust of french teachers).
08.15 ticked students off list. All happy with families. Onto bus. To Brighton. Misty. Cold.
10.30 Brighton Pavilion
12.15 Picnic in the drizzle
13.00 Discover museum shut, is Monday. Go straight to Sea Life centre.
15.00 Leave Sea Life centre for The Lanes. "Free time" shopping, in my case with Olivia, who didn't want to be with the other boys and girls.
16.00 Rendez-vous and walk to the Pier. Three girls fail to report in, but later return having taken no notice of the meeting time.
17.00 Bus. Takes us round the houses. Gets lost down a country road. Takes the wrong exit off the motorway. Fails to identify "Dover" as the appropriate direction. Eventually return to car park half an hour late. Begin to wonder whether to take bus drivers seriously, given incapability with map.
21.00 Teachers and bus drivers go out to pub in Walderslade (not the world's best, but not as bad a place as hosts gave us to believe). Discover bus driver who can't read a map is actually a Boulanger-Patissier and knows all about custard…

Tuesday to London. First problems with families: two boys not only sharing a bed but also left at car park (alone) at 7.30 am. Otherwise, all fine and we're straight up the A2 so we can't get lost (also have borrowed decent, if out of date, road atlas from Steve). Hit traffic (no surprises there). 11am arrive at Natural History Museum. Fab! Not enough time to explore it properly though, picnic and out again by 13.15.
14.00 Visit Cabinet War rooms. Second girl declares she has lost her camera. One boy (a wonderful little genius nicknamed "king Arthur") is on the verge of tears because, once again, we don't have time to see everything.
15.30 Walk (via Whitehall, where they find a mouse and we almost manage to lose several students. Lots of "keep moving!" "Don't go in the road!") to Covent Garden. Free time (=tea and Ben's cookies) until 16.45
16.55 All 51 of us ready and waiting on the Strand. Coach has been parked on parallel embankment road for past two and a half hours and is due to come past here at 17.00 to collect us.
17.10 ring coach. Are at Charing Cross (c. 300 yards)
17.20 still no sign of coach. Ring again. "Can see Nelson's Column." "Lots of traffic". Begin to smell a rat.
17.30 Exasperated, ring again. "Can't get out of Trafalgar Square." Cannot believe it. Begin to wonder whether we should give up and take the train!
17.40 Coach finally turns up. No sooner have we sat down than it takes a left turn. I open the map, find where we are and am dismayed to discover they have this time chosen to head North. Twenty minutes later, we are back on the right road. *Phew*. Phone to say we will be late, again.

Wednesday to Cambridge. Bus driver tries to convince me he wants to take "the bridge not the tunnel". Explain patiently that we will be taking one in each direction. Eventually understands. Good journey. Arrive at 10.30 am, do my bit of guiding up Silver Street to market, free time until 12.15 (stop by Pa's office to dump a few bits and bobs I no longer need in France). Picnic on Launderess Green where we admire the black swan and put up with a little rain.
14.00 Guided tour with blue badge guides begins. I am with Danielle and the european class, who are having their tour in English. Mélanie forgot to take her medicine that morning and is about to be sick. By Trinity she can't go on, so we go to the warm cosiness of King's coffee shop where she recovers.
15.30 Free time again, until 16.45. Back to coach. Only then do I think I should have been pro-active and organised to take them inside a college. Never mind, they liked the place so they are bound to come back. And at least I made sure they understood what a college is, which is more than can be said for most tourists.
19.00 arrive, half an hour early. Last families don't turn up until nearly 8pm, *then* teachers want to go to supermarket to purchase English goodies. End up arriving at house rather late. Dinner has been waiting. Naughty us. (Not that the family ate with us, so no real problem).

Thursday to Greenwich. A good day, but pity about the weather and shortness of time.
10.45 Free time to explore Greenwich 'village'. Hand out punishment of 50 lines "I must not spit" to silly little boy who has already written 100 such for Danielle.
11.15 Boat from Greenwich to the Tower. Picnic in St Katharine's Dock.
12.45 Visit Tower of London.
14.00 Leave Tower, half the group is bored the other half upset that they have not nearly seen everything yet.
14.20 Boat back to Greenwich. Punishment by now has reached 150 lines.
15.00 Greenwich Maritime Museum (=teachers' tea time). An exciting museum well worth a visit another time!
16.00 Walk to the Observatory, examine the Meridian. Explain concept of meridian countless times.
17.00 Coach. Don't think about timing. Should have had extra time in Greenwich Park! Arrive back at Walderslade an hour early. Take half the group to play football in local park with local chavs.
19.45 Last families turn up to collect kids. Home for dinner
21.00 Pub with Ana (a different pub this time).

Friday journey home. A few students express particular sadness at having to leave. Onto coach at 8.30 am, supposedly with two picnics but we, and some of the kids, only have one. Boat at 11am. Bad boy steals other boy's wallet just as we get onto ferry. Waste whole trip trying to sort out this mess, and eat lunch. Very unimpressed teachers. Mark competition I had set on the journey out and hand out prizes. Is hot in France. Bus drivers are stressed, especially once they manage to go the wrong way even on a French motorway! Wallet thankfully is returned. Return exhausted students to their teachers at 23.30. End of fun but shattering week! Sad to leave students and great bunch of teachers–but will see them again before I leave– the teachers have promised they are going to introduce me to snails…

The beginnings of summer

The weather in Lyon has not ceased to amaze for the last three weeks: an almost constant mid-summer feeling, with temperatures between 20 and 30C, and plenty of sunshine. And it's only April!
The day after my last post, Claire, Hattie, Chiara and I wandered around the Monts d'Or again: we had a beautifully sunny day, didn't get lost at all, and found a wonderful orchard full of blossom in which to eat our picnics, as well as meeting two lovely horses and a totally crazy donkey along the way. Much fun!
The weekend brought lots of choir rehearsals for me, but also a couple of hours in the park as it was too nice not to be outdoors. Monday was my birthday: a whole day of teaching at school, not too exciting…but then a lovely evening on the banks of the Rhône at a boat-pub with my Lyon friends (two or three of whom have now already left Lyon!). The rest of my news is all to follow in the next post…

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Holiday time

Despite the fact that two of my flatmates are, only next week, about to undergo what is possibly the hardest academic ordeal in France, the Agrégation, involving 7 hour written literature exams and tests that demand them to be walking dictionaries in the etymology of the French language, these last couple of weeks have seemed very nice and relaxed. Partly this is because at no point have all six of us been in the flat (until tonight), but also it has felt rather like holiday time because they are revising (and I am, in fact, on holiday). So we have been watching several episodes of Friends together, going out roller-blading in the sunshine, and so forth.
Yesterday, Claire and I went to Annecy. The train in the morning turned out to be a bus (the French think they can trick you by painting the bus the same colour as the train and writing ter on the side but no, it was definitely a bus. However, it didn't go round the houses as I originally feared, but took us straight to Annecy so was really quite efficient. Once we got there we found the Office de Tourisme (NB this is the correct term and not syndicat d'initiative as, for some reason, the textbooks always told us!), where a lovely lady gave us maps and little booklets with "itineraires pedestres" for seeing the town. We wandered around, found lots of weird sculptures, admired the quaint old town, walked up the hill to a not very exciting château, then had a picnic in the park and (oh yes) took a pedalo out on the lake! It was beautifully sunny and warm, the water was sparkling and the scenery was magnificent. I was also very excited because the pedalo stations reminded me of punt companies, and the people running them were just like punters, and the girl at the place we got ours from was even in the middle of writing the rota that looked remarkably like a CCP rota…aaah. Pedalos are cool, but I think punts are better. The train went a weird route on the way back and ended up 40 minutes late because of "actes de malveillance" on the line, but this was not a problem really, as we'd had a very nice day.
This afternoon we have been for a Velo'v ride, up almost to Miribel (a heowge park north-west of Lyon). We didn't go all the way today, but maybe one day we will. In the meantime, cycling up by the river was lovely and even reminded us of Cambridge (and Oxford in fact) at times. Tomorrow we are once more heading to the Monts d'Or for a walking adventure: indeed, I should go and consult the map!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A long awaited expostulation

Talking, as I was in my "Easter" post a few minutes ago, of "decent" music. One element of "decent" music in church is properly sung plainsong (=gregorian chant).

Those of you who know me, know that. You know that I am a stickler for things to be done properly the "traditional" way. You know that I think it funny that my choir director believes I learned my plainsong skills at LSM, whereas in fact I was learning them from the day I was born (not alone, of course), and at the age of 13 was giving a presentation to my school class on how plainsong works.

Between about this age and my A level year, I spent moments of "spare" time helping my mother who was (and is?) setting all of the Common Worship modern psalm words to their traditional plainsong chants, in an attempt to restore plainsong to churches using the (oh dear) responsorial settings. And therefore, I know a little bit (if not as much as the monks of mirfield) about how such things work.

Those of you who have sung with me will also know that if there's one thing I particularly detest, it's plainsong melodies written out in modern notation. It makes me seethe.

A recent discussion relating to this topic can be found in this post and its comments: Come faithful people

Now I thought I would need to write reams and reams in this post, explaining exactly what is so awful about the fact that we, in general, don't bother learning to read plainsong notation these days, and instead do this heinous thing of writing the nice melodies out in "equivalent" modern notation (which is not, and could not ever be, equivalent). Ages explaining the nuances of the little black blobs. And why, in fact, it would be better not to translate the words either.
I thought I would need to add to my list of projects the writing of a website that would explain all this AND teach you the basics of plainsong. It only takes the time it took me for a year 8 class presentation, seriously!
Perhaps I still will, one day, so as to have said it my own way.

However, thanks to some unknown Catholics, I need not set about that right now, as I have found a wonderful article that does exactly that, and in my opinion does it rather nicely.
It is here: Musica Sacra then click on the document entitled "An idiot's guide to square notes" in the right hand column ("teaching aids"). Facebook users can find it attached to my profile.

Enough said for now, methinks! I'll let you read…


My flatmates' destinations for next year are currently:
Jé: Oxford (or Paris)
My: Oxford or Dublin (advice on this choice currently very welcome!)
Anto: Beijing or Shanghai
Gareth: Lyon
Max: Heidelberg
Annie: Cambridge

As a result, and because Gareth doesn't want to find five new flatmates and would like a more stable place to live as of next year, this wonderful flat is going back to the agency. Shout now if you want it!!


Somewhere in the midst of all that and more, I seem to have failed to write anything about my five day jaunt to Paris. Where, incidentally, the weather was also very beautiful.
After a substantial panic on Friday night owing to having too many tickets and needing to cancel some very fast, Antonia and I set off on our TGV from Perrache on Saturday morning, arriving early afternoon in Paris where the very fast metro number 14 took us straight to chez elle (very convenient, I must say). There, I met her elder sister Agathe, and we did some shopping but nothing very exciting as it was raining a lot (okay, the weather was *mostly* beautiful). On saturday evening we had a "soirée" for Antonia's paris friends, some of whom I'd already met in Lyon and others not: very nice. On Sunday morning her parents arrived back from a week in the Maldives (lucky them!) so we had a family breakfast together and in the afternoon went for a wander into the centre of Paris with Antonia and her best friend Constance. Delicious ice cream was also consumed. Mmm. This became the pattern of my few days: Antonia had various meetings to do with her conference and the fact that she is now going to China next year to learn Chinese (another of those wacky last-minute schemes that seem to spring up in this flat) and so I discovered Paris variously with and without her company, and managed to meet up with almost everyone who is currently spending their year there: lots of them (Emily and Jérome in particular) I hadn't seen for years, and it was really lovely to see them all and discover their various Parisian lives. I also ate in a Crêperie with Sacha and another lawyer friend of his, and we calculated that if one ate a different crêpe every day, it would take two years (which is what he's got) to try all the crêpes on offer on that street. Wow. And on tuesday evening, we went to a soirée with Laura, a spanish friend of Anto's who is now working in Paris. Finally, on Wednesday afternoon I thought I really couldn't leave Paris without seeing one of the big museums, and as I'd already once upon a time been to the Louvre, it was the Centre Pompidou that won this time, where there was an interesting exhibition about Samuel Beckett (particularly relevant for Anto, who is fascinated by exhibitions about authors) although it would have been more interesting with a little explanation here and there! All round fun, and my feet took me toddling round many different 'quartiers'-the quaint, chic, impressive, etc, and even the Peripherie (we got there by accident when going for a walk on a "sentier planté" with Jérome and Anto). I felt like I knew Paris much better by the end, and I was very grateful for the comfy and very central hospitality chez the Dubrulle family!


It's nearly 8pm on Easter Sunday, and I am sitting in the kitchen drinking tea with Hattie, who is reading Glamour in both French and English (observing the different content of each is a very intriguing occupation!)
I, on the other hand am writing my blog. It has been a lovely day–but we must, of course, start where we left off which was, I believe, after Good Friday.
Holy Saturday was much like any other Saturday during the holidays. I got up, taught my private student Marine, went to the market where I bought lots and lots of fruit and veg, came back, went for a walk with Mylène along the banks of the Rhône, made the apple sauce for today's lunch (of which more later…) and then got ready to go out. Yes, I have to admit there will be no insight into just how boringly or excitingly St Nizier might have done their Easter Vigil service, because I was invited to dinner chez Mathieu, a friend from the choir (19, gay, training to be a midwife), and this was a more interesting prospect. The reason for it being last night was that the bar just below his house was celebrating a year since its opening with free drinks for regulars, and so we were to go along to that, along with Keegan (second gay friend from choir; Texan, aspiring to be singer and/or restaurant manager) and his boyfriend Greg. Mathieu made a very nice turkey and pine nut salad, and updated me on all the latest gossip from Mathieu land, and then we joined the others downstairs and it was a lot of fun!!
So that was Saturday. This morning, having got up in time to peel the potatoes and get them (and the roast) into the oven, Mylène and I did Easter the Anglican way. It was a big contrast to the rulebook version of Good Friday we'd had, and Mylène enjoyed it more (while I maintained that the two were good but both had lacked decent music!). She was also surprised to discover real bread at communion (okay, that is quite rare) and that everyone got wine (unlike in Catholic establishments where this is unheard of…can anyone explain this to me? I've always thought it illogical).
We walked back from church, it being another beautiful day, and finished preparing roast dinner (Pork, apple sauce, roast potatoes, broccoli, leeks; plum crumble; Chateauneuf du Pape) for which 'we' were Mymy, Jéjé, Gareth, Mathieu, Hattie and I. (I even got away with putting on some proper Easter music as sung by Kings, in the background). It was all a success and after dinner Hattie Mathieu and I went for a wander in the parc de la Tête d'Or, where we made some daisy chains and observed how many toddlers there are in Lyon, before returning to eat the last hot cross bun (and a couple of kinder eggs) with our tea.
Not quite like the Dawn+champagne+family affair I've been used to these past few years, nor especially French, but a jolly Easter nonetheless. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

What do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?

…yes, you got it. Hot cross bunnies.

Yesterday I made hot cross buns. I know the rest of you will be bored of them by now as they've been in the shops since Christmas, in rather inappropriate cohabitation with the creme eggs, but here they are no-where to be seen. I used a Delia recipe which appears to be the only one available online. However, my google search having thrown up a few iffy comments on said recipe and in particular its idea of how to make paste for the crosses, I invented my own version. It was rather a success. Hooray. I also used fresh yeast (I don't believe in the dried sort), which I procured at the rate of 1 cent per gram at a local (as far as they come local in the middle of town) boulangerie.

Tomorrow I am cooking roast lunch for my flatmates and Hattie. This could be an interesting task in our miniscule electric box that believes itself to be an oven, especially as I shall be out at church at certain crucial moments…but we shall try our best.

On the subject of church, Mylène and I went to St Nizier's once more yesterday evening for their "Office de Vendredi Saint". It was "the proper thing" in as far as there was veneration of the cross and pre-consecrated communion and so forth (Mylène noted afterwards that despite having been brought up a good French catholic, she had never done so much genuflecting in her life), but there was NO nice music, just some unaccompanied waffling (pah, what happened to Tallis lamentations and the Victoria Passion?), and it was generally rather dull and not very moving. We'll see what they do at their Vigil this evening.

Those of you going to vigil and first mass at dawn tomorrow morning, enjoy! I've not found anywhere here doing such, although I think there's some sort of ecumenical affair up on the hill at 7am…

Thursday, April 05, 2007

And they forsook him and fled

This evening, being Jeudi Saint (or Maundy Thursday to us lot), I decided (in the apparent absence of any observance thereof at Lyon Anglican Church) to go to St Nizier down the road, where they do things "properly". The church was utterly packed out, which was fun. And the service was generally good and much as expected, with not a bad sermon from their young priest.
At the end, they processed the sacrament to the chapel of repose, where there was to be a watch until midnight. All very proper.
But. (Yes, you knew there'd be a but!) There was no "AND THEY FORSOOK HIM AND FLED". This was not a great surprise but I always find it a bit of a disappointment these days. I should probably take to going to Mirfield or Canterbury for holy week.
More surprising (shocking, perhaps even) was that there was no Psalm 22, and no stripping of the altars. I like psalm 22. I'm not sure it quite feels like holy week without it. And I'm sure they will have stripped the altars after most of us left, but I think doing it during the service is somewhat more poignant.

Meanwhile, I have a new student who I've been helping this week with her prépa work, and I've been in Paris for five days. Lots of fun, of which more to come soon!