A Mother in France marches for a Peoples Vote

 

New Phototastic Collage

On Saturday 23rd March 2019, I got up at 3am to get the 7am flight from Toulouse to London to participate in the march for a People’s Vote.  You could say “why”, you could say “would they have noticed if there was just one less person?”

Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted!

It’s true, it might not have made a difference, but sometimes you have to stand up and be counted.  What if the other one million marchers (closer to two million by police estimations) had thought, “it’s a long way, they won’t miss me…” too?

I feel passionately against Brexit and don’t my friends on Facebook know it!  This was my chance to make a stand in person, plus I was marching for 110 people who couldn’t be there and had entrusted me with their names faithfully written on my T shirt. I couldn’t let them down. Continue reading

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What does “A Mother in France” do for a living?

I’m often asked what my day job is (even my kids aren’t sure) and each time I stumble to answer that question.  I have so many it’s difficult to say which is the main one and my role in each of these enterprises is somewhat diverse….  So, to help me answer this question, I’ve tried to summarise my “jobs” below:

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Editorial Team Member (Freelance) – NDM Consulting

I work from home as a freelance sub-contractor for a medical E-Journal.  I manage the article processing by liaising with authors, editors and publishers and I format, proof-read, edit and upload articles to the web.  I work on this approximately 10-15 hours a week and it is my main personal income at present.

 

Office Manager – Kingdom Vegetal Garden Centre and Landscaping business

My husband Gary and I set up this business in 2009 – it is largely Gary’s business as he is the Horticultural expert and I manage the administrative side (estimates, accounts, promoting etc).  We have a small nursery/garden centre which is run from our home which I man from time to time when I’m available, but the largest part of the business is the landscaping.  We specialise in Natural Swimming Pools and water gardens but do a wide variety of soft and hard landscaping.  I am actively involved in the design side of the business too and create garden plans on our landscaping software (with Gary’s professional input).

 

Owner – Moulin d’en Bas, Eco-Tourism Holiday complex

A large part of our property has been converted into holiday apartments which have been let for mainly holidays (sometimes long-term lets) since 2005.  I manage the administrative and promoting side of the business.  Over the last few years we haven’t let the apartments as much as we used to due to other commitments, but this year we are planning a revamp and a rebrand.  Sustainability has always been an integral part of our lives and businesses, but this is the first time we have decided to market our holiday accommodation as such.  It’s a work in progress.

 

Local Organiser – Home Language International

I work very part-time as a local organiser covering the Midi-Pyrenees area for a business called Home Language International.  They offer home stay immersion courses.  I am responsible for interviewing potential hosts for the “English in France” courses, matching students to suitable hosts and ensuring the stay runs smoothly.  We also host students occasionally in the summer months.  I have been working for HLI since 2005, it doesn’t take up a huge amount of my time and fits in quite nicely with the other roles I have.

 

Writer and Blogger – A Mother in France

This I do largely for pleasure.  I started writing a book about our lives as a British family living in France in 2011, I got very close to finishing it a year or so later, but then life got really complicated with various business and serious health problems and the project was shelved for some years.  I am now working on the book and blog again (although I have never really stopped writing in some form) and I have so much more to write and share.  I was beginning to think I’d never get this book published, but I’ve decided to publish it in a series of books, that way I can start sharing the parts that are already finished and take my time on working on the new sections.  So, the first in the series  “A Mother in France – Moving to and living in France” is due to be released next month (April 2019), the subsequent books with working titles of “Raising a Family in France”, “Earning a living in France” and “Hospital Diaries” will be released later this year and early next year.

 

There are few other things I do with my time too, but I haven’t listed them here as they are either voluntary or for pleasure, so can’t really classed as something I do for a living (although they maybe one day).  Also, I thought this post was getting a bit too long and I’m in danger of boring and/or exhausting you with all I do.  Are you confused?  I know I am!

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The B Word

I’m British and I live in France – how can I not have an opinion on Brexit?  No matter whether you voted for Brexit or not, I don’t think anyone can deny that it is breaking Britain in two.  Just the mention of “The B Word” really does fire people up with either dread, fear or anger of some description.

I’ve been struggling for some time to put into words just what Brexit means to me, how it is impacting my life and the lives of those around me on a daily basis.  Like it or not it is affecting everyone across Britain and Europe and not in a positive way.

Here’s my attempt at expressing my feelings…

The B word

 

What feelings does “The B word” invoke in you?

 

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Why the Chayote isn’t Shite

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A few years back our French neighbour introduced us to the humble Chayote, a funny, knobbly, oval shaped, green vegetable (which I think is actually a fruit) with a tough, difficult to peel skin.  It tastes of hmmm, well… nothing really.  “What do we do with it?”, we asked, but were secretly thinking “Why on earth would we bother?”

“C’est bon, C’est bon” our neighbour assured us, “Gateaux de Chouchou, Gratin de Chouchou… beaucoup de choses”. Continue reading

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10 TIPS I’D GIVE MYSELF BEFORE MOVING TO FRANCE

10 tips I'd give myselfA little over ten years ago, we were busy preparing for our big move. We were full of anticipation and raring to go.  We had battled our way through huge obstacles in selling our property in the UK and it felt we would never achieve our goal of moving to France.  Despite the difficulties though, we got there in the end.

Life is often strange (well ours seems to be anyway).  Maybe the difficulties we encountered were preparing us for what was ahead. If we couldn’t get through those trials, then there was not a hope that we could cope with the struggles we were to face after moving to France. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life (on the whole) and have no real regrets (well maybe a few), but I would definitely have done things differently had I known then what I know now.

So, if I could go back in time to ten years ago and talk to my 37 year old self, what would I tell her?  Here’s a few things that spring to mind: Continue reading

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The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!

FigsWhen we first moved to France back in 2004 we didn’t miss much, but we did crave for Branston Pickle.  However, since discovering this delicious recipe, Branston no longer makes it onto our wish lists of goodies to ask for when we have visitors from the UK.  In fact I struggle to think of anything now when I get the inevitable question “What would you like us to bring you from England?”  “I don’t mind what you bring, as long as you don’t bring the weather,” is all I can think of these days.

I don’t often blog about food, mainly because so many people out there are doing such a fine job of it. BUT, it’s that time again, when the fig trees are laden with fruit, you’ve eaten your fill, you’ve made some jam and are wondering what else to do with the basketful of figs sitting on your table.  Sound familiar?  No?  It must be just me then!

Anyway, for those of you who are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your garden, or (like me) have a generous French neighbour who delivers a basket of figs to your table, then here is one of my favourite recipes:

Continue reading

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There’s more to Life than Education

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A Happy Child is a Rounded Child

As a responsible parent, we all strive to give our children the best start in life we possibly can.  I think sometimes though we tend to focus too much on certain aspects of the process without stepping back and considering the wider picture.

It seems that Education is the number one concern of parents with children considering moving to France (or any other country for that matter).  On many expat forums there are countless discussions about the problems with education in France and it’s easy to get bogged down with all the intricacies and worry we’re depriving our children in some way. I’m just as guilty as the next person and actively contribute to these discussions as I do find it fascinating, especially as I’ve schooled my children in both the UK and France.  Yes of course the schooling of our children is a primary concern and we all want what’s best for them, but education is only one part of the equation – an important part it’s true, but not the only part.

Continue reading

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Keeping up with the English!

ABCOne big challenge when bringing up English speaking children in a foreign speaking country, is when and how to introduce written English.  It’s one thing to expect a child to learn to speak two languages at the same time, but is it an unnecessary pressure to expect them to cope with learning the different written spellings and pronunciations of two languages at the same time?

My biggest concern was that my children would not be able to read and write in English.  I’ve heard of cases of English speaking teenagers with very poor written skills.  What a wasted opportunity to be orally bilingual, but not able to read and write in both languages too. It obviously wont just happen automatically without at least a little gentle encouragement, but when is the right time to start introducing it? Continue reading

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Home Grown Cauliflower Soup

My French neighbours had very kindly given us a bag of their home grown cauliflower this week. So far I’ve made cauliflower cheese (a bit boring) and Brown Rice with Vegetables which is an old Delia Smith recipe that I’ve adapted from our vegetarian days. It’s brown rice (surprisingly enough) with onions, carrots and bacon bits (that’s my unveggie ingredient) with stir fried cauliflower and cabbage, topped with a cheese sauce – yummy.

I decided to try making the remainder into a soup and looked up a recipe on the web. I wasn’t sure whether the flavour of cauliflower might come through a bit strong in the soup, but rather than let it rot, I thought I’d give it a try.

To my surprise it was really tasty and the proof of the pudding (so to speak) was that my two youngest (7 and 5) loved it and asked for seconds. One big pot of cauliflower soup polished off in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s the recipe if you fancy trying it – it’s a doddle!
cauliflower soup2Ingredients:

1 Onion roughly chopped
1 large clove of garlic
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
Tablespoon of oil
1 tsp Corriander
1 tsp Cumin (I didn’t have any cumin so I put in ½ teaspoon of garam masalla and ½ teaspoon of paprika).
1 lt of chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock cubes).
A swirl of cream to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower and spices and gently fry for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.
  4. Remove from the heat and liquidize with a stick mixer or liquidizer (I find the stick mixer is much easier especially when I’m usually cooking large quantities of soup. It tends to leave a few lumps of vegetables in it but my kids think it’s an added bonus to have find a lump of vegetable in their soup).
  5. Serve with a swirl of cream (according to taste) and sprinkle a few chopped chives on top if you have any.

This is probably about enough to serve 4-6

Enjoy!

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Zis iz ow we speek English

In my last post Children Learning to be Bilingual. I was discussing how our youngest children speak French with a local French accent and speak English with an English accent.  English is afterall their mother tongue.  However, we were talking at the dinner table one evening about accents and the fact that the French find it difficult to pronounce the sound ‘th’ in English.  I asked my son (who was 9 at the time) if his teacher ever got him to speak during their English lessons to help the others know how to pronounce the words properly.
            ‘No, the teacher tells us what to say.’
            ‘Well at least when you repeat it they’ll hear how to say it properly.’ I reasoned.
            ‘No, I say it with the same accent as the teacher.’


I found this quite funny, well really funny actually.  Sorry but imagining him talking like René from ‘Allo ‘Allo in class just tickled me. When I stopped laughing I asked ‘Why on earth do you do that?’
            ‘Because that’s the way they teach us and that’s the way the French speak English.’


Although I did find it funny, there is a more serious side.  This simple answer I think highlights a fundamental flaw with teaching practices in many French schools.  Children generally are not encouraged to think for themselves or question what they are taught. The teacher’s way is always right (even when it’s clearly not).  I’m not sure in this case whether the teacher really did expect him to repeat her parot fashion, or if it was more down to his embarassment of not wanting to be different.  Either way, he should be encouraged to share his knowledge rather than hide it for fear of ridicule.


I did of course discuss this with my son and explain that he actually speaks English correctly and he should be proud of it.  He assures me that he doesn’t put on a phoney French accent in class now, I hope he doesn’t.


We have come across English teacher’s with our older son who’ve hated the fact they have an English child in the class as they seem to see them as a threat – but that’s another story…..
Posted in Education in France, Language Learning | 2 Comments