Category Archives: France/French

Things that probably won’t make it into the prayer letter.

The day started out fairly normally: eat breakfast, shower,  drive into town to find free wifi, pass a 20 year old girl and her mother in the street examining the sex toys in the window of the local ‘high-class’ sex shop, hear said 20 year old girl share with mother which one she particularly enjoys…  You know, just the usual.

But it all got a little bit weird around lunchtime when I had to phone Orange to sort out my broken down internet connection.  Apparently calling customer service here is not just a matter of waiting in line, but actually it is a test of your French pronunciation and a battle of wits.  Orange France do not have your average ‘If you want such-and-such, press 1, or if you need so-and-so, press 2’ – oh no! – Orange France have gone down the ‘If you wish to speak to a customer service advisor, say : “Service clientèle” ‘ route.  Hmmm… ok, I’ll try!

So, I made it past the pronunciation stage (yesss!) and then I am presented with the following : “Please state the nature of your problem”.  Now, generally the automated-speaking-lady in these sorts of things is programmed to understand certain words and phrases.  So that when you top up your electricity with NIE, and automated-speaking-lady asks you to confirm your customer service number, she reads you the number you’ve just typed and says: “To confirm, say ‘yes'”.  Simple enough.  But not Orange France!  Noooooo… they want you to just hazard a guess at the key words automated-speaking-lady going to compute.  Errmmm… “L’internet ne fonctionne pas?”  or “Internet Orange est un pile de poo?”… I guess that’s maybe easier to work out if French happens to be your first language, but its not exactly conducive to getting things done for a foreigner!

But you’ll be glad to hear that I passed that test too.  Eventually…

By this next stage, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been set up by some kind of Krypton Factor slash Candid Camera type thing, because a few minutes later, the lady (a real one this time) is telling me to take a knife prise open 6 metallic strips on the filter which was plugged into my phone socket.

“I’m sorry, what?  A knife??” (thinking my French ears must’ve gone on holiday)

Oui, Madame, un couteau.


Oui, Madame, sérieux.

So, there I am, my mobile phone on loudspeaker on the table, hacking away at these metallic strips with a kitchen knife.  Which, by the way, did not go so well as the other tasks – Krypton Factor Girl I am Not.  After 5 minutes of me muttering and hacking and wondering if they’ll accept liability should I chop off a fingertip in the process, and during which time I’m sure the lady (the real one) is fiddling away with some things on Orange’s end to resolve the real problem, she finally tells me it doesn’t matter and to just plug the freakin thing back into the wall!  And lo and behold, she tells me there’s a fault on the line.

No shizz, Sherlock.

Lucky for you, it got sorted and I can update you on these things, eh?

Dinner was on the balcony over discussing some bible reading I hadn’t done, not praying and generally feeling pretty grumpy and pissed off.  And then the evening was topped off drinking cider out of a plastic cup down by the river in the dark.

That was my day today.

Just so you know.

That was my day.


Filed under France/French, grrrr..., random, story

It’ll be all right in the end

It could be the wine, but, you know what?  I think everything is going to be okay.

(I’m not going to admit how many times I had to use the ‘delete’ button for that sentence… yowzers – time for some coffee…)

Seriously, though.  I think it might turn out all right.

A while ago I wrote about a tiny miracle as to how I found this apartment and here I am on the balcony (LOGGIA actually, but more about that in a minute.), looking out on a storm that’s been brewing for several hours :

I’ve cosied up with wine, salad, cheese, my journal and Eva Cassidy and now I’m on the chocolate and coffee.  I’ve been listing reasons I’m thankful – a much better pursuit than the intended rant and self-pity sesh.  And here’s why I think it might all just be okay…

God knows better than I do what the desires of my heart are.

It was the small fact that the apartment I accidentally ended up renting has a loggia rather than a balcony that excited this epiphany.  I had spent some time expostulating about how I’d REALLY like an apartment with a balcony, please, Lord.  And I thought he’d found me one.  But no.  He found me one with a Loggia.

You see a balcony, according to Wiki, is “a platform projecting from the wall of a building, supported by columns or console brackets, and enclosed with a balustrade.” and therefore might look like this :

Whereas a loggia, according to Wiki, is “mostly described as a recessed portico, or an internal room, with pierced walls and open to the elements.” and might, for example, look something like this :

The crucial difference being that is has a roof and sides.  Therefore I can sit quite comfortably with my Mac and coffee while the rain pours down outside.  Now, who’d have thought to pray for that???

“Now to Him who is able to do more than we ask or imagine…to Him be glory…!”

I figure that if God cares about that, then he might care about the other stuff I care about and have asked him for.  He seems to know more about what I really want than I do, so I reckon it all might just be ok.


Filed under beauty, France/French, God, gospel, happiness is

A typical day in France

Here are some things I see during a typical day in France.  Some expected, others somewhat unexpected.

– At least one man with beautifully shaped eyebrows.

– At least two people bin hoking outside my local supermarket.

– Two girls holding hands (and recently in Paris, snogging) in the street.

– A man with the face of a thirty year old, the height of a ten year old and the thighs of a female supermodel.

– A woman with the face of a ninety year old, the raven hair of a thirty year old and the fashion sense of a twenty year old.

– Several pairs of breasts (usually on magazine covers outside newsagents or on billboards I hasten to add)

– A person holding a fully fledged conversation with themselves in the supermarket.

That’s just a few to get your imagination going, I’ll keep you posted with any others I think of.  Things I smell in France might also be of interest…

Leave a comment

Filed under France/French, random

French Kissing and other cultural reflections on love.

French kissing.  I’ve done it a lot.  Its very nice and I have to say I like it.  But, it can get a little awkward…  Turning this way and that, bumping glasses, not knowing what is acceptable to do with your hands, wondering if I have to kiss EVERY person in the room even though it takes an awful long time to get around everyone.  It gets tiring, all this kissing.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, here’s a little instructional video…


I think even the French get confused.

In other cultural reflection news… I’ve been thinking about how the presence of or lack of words to describe a concept in a certain language has a profound affect on a culture.  The French word/concept that I’ve been thinking about is ‘love’.  Another slightly awkward one for an anglophone.

So, you make a new friend of the opposite sex.  You don’t fancy them, but you do greatly appreciate their friendship and would like to communicate this.  Problem : the verb you would most likely use (‘aimer’) means both like and love.  Awkward.

Or, you make a new friend of the opposite sex.  You are attracted to them and would like to communicate this.  Problem : the verb you would most likely use does not exist.  Your only option is to use ‘aimer’ – I love you.  Immediately you find yourself confessing to be in love with this person.  Awkward?

Now, for an anglophone (at least in my culture), the phrase ‘I love you’ takes a relationship to a whoooooooole other level – think how many films/tv series include that awkward moment where one person says ‘I love you’ and the other person freaks out because they’re not ready to say it so says something silly like ‘thank you’ and so ensues a whole episode of angst until the second person plucks up the courage and decides its okay to say it but now the other person doesn’t want to hear it etc etc etc.  Awkward.

But anyway.  I digress.

Now imagine yourself French (no rude comments, please).  This is how it works as far as I can tell… You meet someone of the opposite sex and start going out.  How do you express the fact that you like that?  Je t’aime.  I love you.  But that’s okay, because you’re French and you speak French, and that’s what you say.


It puts such an interesting spin on it all because ‘I love you’ is therefore a somewhat smaller thing to say because it is employed from a very early period in defining a relationship.  It is made even smaller, then, when you break up with someone after a few weeks because you don’t feel like its working – the words ‘Je t’aime’ are therefore as easily revoked as they are employed.  Do you see what I mean?  The words somehow don’t have the same binding power…

But whilst it is a smaller thing to say, it can also be a majassive thing to say, you know?  For example, in the French Christian world, love is, on principal, not bandied around (which is a Good Thing), but at the same time the amount of pressure that is put on a couple to Know from the beginning is huge.  Like, where is that period between friendship and ‘in love’?  Surely that’s an important stage to pass through before committing yourself for a lifetime to a person?  Its sort of an all-or-nothing situation.

Hmmm…. Makes for a more dramatic life I guess.  Perhaps Alicia was in France when she wrote this

1 Comment

Filed under culture, dating, France/French, love

Can’t sleep reflections on NYE 2010-2011

I’ve just seen then New Year in at the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, Europe, The World, The Milky Way etc…

To be honest, it was less classy than expected (not least due to the < 5€ “champagne”) with a cloudy sky spoiling any chance of fireworks.  Of the colourful, banging, sparkly kind, I mean.  I currently can’t work out if the few fireworks I heard were bystander offerings and if the city just didn’t bother or what, but going off with a bang wouldn’t quite describe it!

But… I had fun with an old friend and new friends – the melding of my two current lives under the cloudy sky of gaie Par-ee.  This, plus < 5€ champagne, plus not being able to sleep, plus surviving being crammed into a metro car with at least 600 more people than would normally fit into such a small space (plus 4 others trying to squeeze in for good measure), sure makes one ready to be grateful for the year gone by and especially at the prospect of the new year come.

And so the following are 4 of my reasons to be thankful for 2010 and 4 of my hopes for 2011…

Grateful in 2010

– For a good, solid end to a 4 year contract which brought many friends and joys through all the ups and downs.

– For time to discover some significant realisations about who I am created to be and why that might just be a Good Thing.

– For bittersweet fond farewells which gave expression to the many beautiful ways in which I really am loved.  This is what I’m most grateful for.  Either that, or my Macbook.

– My new apartment and everything it represents.

Hoping in 2011

– To know more of Love

– To grow in courage and strength to be the person I am created to be, particularly in my new context.

– To find my apartment is home, even if I never quite get around to painting the bathroom.

– To lose my mother’s thighs… I’m female after all…! 😉

I’m also hoping this sore throat will go away and that once this is all out of my head I can grab some sleep before Gaie Par-ee kicks us out of our hotel.

Happy New Year, y’all xx

Leave a comment

Filed under France/French

Ways in which sorting my apartment is like Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

1.  The project was vastly needed.  Broken walls/Ugly wallpaper.







2. The very nature of the opportunity coming about was altogether supernatural.  King Artaxerxes had previously forbidden the walls to be rebuilt (Ezra 4) and suddenly he was helping Nehemiah out/I dialled the wrong number and STILL got someone renting a flat with my very specifications (here).

3. The people all pitched in to help.  Nehemiah surveyed the damage alone and then proposed the project to Israel’s leaders and soon everyone was rebuilding and excited about doing it/ I saw the apartment (and its disarray) once and then brought friends back to see it again – they got all excited and offered to help.

4. Opposition from without.  Nehemiah quickly ran into problems with people wanting to thwart the progress/ It took longer than expected for the landlord to get me the key to the entrance door at the bottom and I had to endure a yelling over the intercom with a friendly neighbour who was getting fed up with letting me in (all of two times.  humpff)

5. Opposition from within.  The Israelites started getting fed up with building/ I AM GETTING FED UP WITH PAINTING!!!!!!!

6. More opposition from without.  Nehemiah and the people are getting somewhere but all sorts of complaints and attempts to stop the work/ I have managed to get internet and phone into my apartment but am still wrestling with the gas company, the electricity company, the gas boiler service company, the kitchen appliance delivery guys, the furniture delivery guys, the weather and I think my neighbours already hate me.

7. The walls get finished, the law is read and they all live happily ever after (more or less!)… Please Lord!!!!????

Leave a comment

Filed under France/French, grrrr..., humour, random, story

Twist in the Tale : Go Figure.

I’ve been looking for a flat here in France.  Not as fast-flowing as I had expected – much like a lot of things really.

I had found an advert for a private let on a website and got in touch with the landlord.  We set a date for a viewing (again, taking longer than I expected) and as the day approached, I imagined what it might look like to live in that flat; I got excited at the prospect of living in an area named after the local church : “Christ Roi” (Christ the King); I googlemapped the area for my local bakery…

The time of the viewing finally arrived, but the landlord did not.  A few muttered apologies : “I thought I had told you the meeting was pushed back?”, repeated promises : “I’ll keep you posted…” but ultimately a no-goer.  Start from scratch once more.

On the same website I had seen another apartment that fitted my criteria.  So I dialed the number beside the announcement.  A man answers.

“Yes, hello, I saw your advert on ***website and am interested in viewing the apartment you’re renting in the north of the city.”

“On what website, sorry?  But, yes I had two apartments for rent, one with 3 bedrooms and one with 2 bedrooms.  The one with 3 bedrooms is already let.”

“Oh, that’s ok – I’m looking for two bedrooms.  Where is the apartment…?”

So despite some obvious confusion on the landlord’s part – and subsequently on my part – we eventually reached the consensus that I would go to the apartment where a neighbour would let me in and show me around the next afternoon.  He asked me to call him back after the viewing and let him know either way – even to the point of letting him know what I didn’t like about it.  So I agreed.

The following afternoon I visit the apartment.  The area is nice – there is a lot of greenery around, a small supermarket, a Post Office, a branch of my bank, a library…  The building is good – its near a frequent bus route, its only three floors so not too many people…  The size and shape of the apartment is good – a balcony to watch the sunset from, on the top floor so no-one is walking over my head, a kitchen with a door to close and pretend the dishes are done…  But its kind of grotty and the decoration is pretty horrible.  Plus, it looks nothing like the photos he had on the website.

I decide I’ll call the landlord back and be honest about what I think and see if he is willing to change any of the floor coverings or decoration for me.  Having not taken note of the phone number, I go back to the website advertisement where I had first found his number and dialled it again.

This time a woman answers.  She sounds much younger than the gentleman I spoke to before and so I wonder if she’s his daughter.  I begin to explain that I called last night about the apartment, but it wasn’t her I spoke to.

“I don’t think we had any calls last night” she says.

“Oh.  Do you have an apartment to rent in the north of the city?”  I ask, confusion mounting.

“Yes we’re renting an apartment, its a 4 bedroom apartment in the city centre.”

“Oh.  Perhaps I rang the wrong number – sorry for disturbing you.”  Hmm… that’s weird.  I check the number I dialled – I definitely just called the number that was on the website and yet got somebody different.  Weird.

So now I’m stuck – I’m supposed to call back, but evidently I had called the wrong number the night before.  I ring the neighbour who showed me round the apartment and she is (after some panicked searching) able to give me the number of the landlord of the flat she showed me round.  I compare it with the number on the website.  One figure different.

Can you imagine?  I made a mistake in reading the number on the advertisement for a flat on this website – I wrongly dialled one digit in the phone number and even though I called the wrong number, I STILL MANAGED TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO HAD A FLAT TO RENT WHICH WAS IN THE AREA I NEEDED, HAD THE EXACT SPECIFICATIONS I WANTED AND WAS EVEN COMING IN BELOW MY BUDGET.  Wonder what the probability of that happening is.

Who am I to let a little redecoration get in the way?



Leave a comment

Filed under France/French, story

Things I am learning in France : The One where I am a Mature Student (read ‘Nerd’)

I’ve been attending a language school for the sum total of three days.  I’m repeating French words ad nauseum (at times not even full words), doing grammar exercises, writing a crime novel, creating a weather report for a radio station… and LOVING it.

The highlight of my time in France so far has not been the weather, nor the great food, nor even the beauty of arriving in a new city at the most stunning leaves-turning Autumn, nor has it been (sorry) meeting the people I’ll be working with – although all of that has been incredible, I hasten to add!  The highlight of my time so far in France was an hour long lecture in a darkened room looking at slides (yes – SLIDES – as in the small individual plates of glass with pictures printed on them, not as in powerpoint) of Roman-built churches.

I began the lesson in confusion – what on earth did Roman churches have to do with French Culture (the name of the class), never mind my study of the French language?  It doesn’t help that I’ve been put in a class who are already one month into their syllabus.  However, half way through the lesson I found myself on the edge of my seat; eyes wide, nodding eagerly, smiling even with head buzzing and heart pounding – it was incredible.

For a second I saw myself through the eyes of my 19 year old student self, through the eyes of the majority of the undergraduate students around me – I was a Mature Student, ie a Nerd.  Drinking in every word and idea that was being conveyed, turning it over in my mind, poking it and turning it and revelling in the process!  Every so often the teacher would say “Its VERY interesting, isn’t it?” and I could hear my 19 year old self laughing – he was talking about how people used to build buildings for goodness sake!  I almost rolled my eyes instinctively.  And yet – and YET! – it WAS VERY INTERESTING!!! I was fascinated!!!!!

What captured me most, I think, was the passion with which the teacher spoke.  The way in which he had evidently lived and breathed the architecture of the time, he spoke authoritatively but philosophically.  He communicated with his whole body – I have never seen anyone perform a lesson in a such a way as to evoke the language of dance.  I could hear my 19-year-old self laughing and mocking his eccentricity – he was a grown man pretending to be a wall for goodness sake!  I almost nudged the person beside me instinctively.  And yet – and YET! – I have never before left a class feeling so inspired and alive!!!!

To lower the tone slightly… The experience was made all the more special when I noticed he was wearing the kind of specs that rather than having legs which balance them on your ears, they were simply balanced on his nose.  Brilliant.


Filed under beauty, culture, France/French, happiness is, story

“Behold I am doing a new thing…”

Autumn is a great time to move somewhere new.

The trees turning from green to red to golden are not only so beautiful as to make the heart ache with joy, but they also serve to remind that change is the way of the world, and it is good.

Change brings many little deaths – the fare-thee-well of the green of well-known places and faces, the see-you-soon glowing ambers of goodbye tears and warm wishes – but autumn comes so that springtime can, in time, flourish once more with fresh growth and vigour.

Winter follows Autumn.  It can be cold and dark with unfamiliarity, slippery with icy loneliness, seemingly interminable.  But Winter has its own surprises.  Comfort found in a steaming mug.  Hope alive in clear skies and starlit pinpricks. Rest in watching and waiting the approach of new birth.

“Behold I am doing something new!  Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa 43:19

Leave a comment

Filed under beauty, change, France/French, hope

Twist in the Tale

I’ve been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  Its largely about the idea that our lives are stories, part of the Great Story written by God.  Reading Miller often does great things in my soul and this one has not been a disappointment.  In recent chapters he has been talking about our responsibility to engage with life and make our stories memorable and worthwhile and full of God encounters.

I guess this has struck a chord with me because I feel like other stuff I’ve been reading and thinking about is all playing into this idea, but also because I’m on the cusp of fairly major change in my life story.  I’ve been raising financial support to go work for a church in France since March-ish and today is a deadline date where the mission council will decide if I have enough support in place to go at the end of October.

It has been a long and at times painful journey.  Its a lot of money and I’m raising in a fairly rough time in global economy and if there’s one thing I struggle to talk about productively, its finance.

This afternoon brings another blow.  Yesterday due to counting miscommunications, my total shot up by 5% making it look like I’d surely be given the go ahead.  This afternoon another discrepancy was discovered but this time not in my favour, leaving me with 1.5% less than I thought I had before it shot up yesterday.

Buoyed by much tea and binge-proportions of fruit cake (seriously – it was the best option in the house!  But it is damn fine fruit cake.), I’m trying to think of this occurrence as a great twist in the tale of the story being written here.  Every story has a great moment of disappointment and tension where it looks like it might not turn out okay in the end.  I mean, can you imagine how great an anecdote it’ll be when I tell the story in the future?  “It all looked like disaster might strike, but suddenly God turned up…”

Come on, God – let’s see what you can do!

1 Comment

Filed under change, France/French, God, story