Andrew Learning French

As the day of the big move edges closer I have this thought that keeps popping in to my head...must...learn...French. There’s a lot to learn and get our heads around for this move and venturing into the unknown with an ever present uncertainty is all part of the big adventure. However, going to an entirely new country and learning their language from scratch is still quite daunting.

I remember my French lessons in secondary school. We started with 'bonjour' and it slowly (or sometimes quickly) descended into chaos from there. I would be designing comic books with my friend Kevin who was a fantastic artist, or listening to the latest tape full of recordings from the radio on our Walkmans. (Yes I said tape! It's hard to remember a life before digital music and downloads). So as you can imagine I didn't learn very much French. I was one of those classic pupils where teachers used to say "you are very bright. If only you would apply yourself, you would do very well." Now that I'm deciding to apply myself to French, I hope their assessment of me was accurate.

After our last trip to France we'd pretty much made up our minds that we would take the big leap and I enrolled on an adult education course to learn Beginners French. I arrived at a local school late one evening and greeted my fellow students as we waited for our tutor to arrive. There was a mixed bunch of people with different reasons for learning French; holiday homeowners, language enthusiasts, regular visitors to France, people working in France, and a couple of genuine Francophiles. Our tutor arrived and we were all ushered into a room where we introduced ourselves. Our tutor was a retired, well-spoken Englishman from a banking background who once lived in France to work. I have to admit, he differed from my original expectations of a French tutor from France who would be speaking to us in French the whole time. Anyway he was a nice enough chap and fluent in French so we began learn.

The lessons were what you would expect from a beginners class. We started with greetings and numbers etc, and then worked our way through different scenarios. It soon became apparent that some members of the group were clearly not beginners and could translate some of the tutor's long testing sentences immediately. This meant us newbies didn't even get a chance to think it through before the answer was given to us, but on the flipside the pace meant you had to learn quickly. As the weeks went on my 'vocabulaire Français' began to increase but I began to dread the words "I may have told you this already" as this was the opening to a 10 minute long anecdote about the tutor’s extravagant life in France which we'd probably heard already. Overall the course was fun despite the tutor’s frequent references to how difficult the French language is to learn, and it did give me a foundation to work from. I don’t think however that this style of learning entirely agrees with me so I won’t be doing that again!

One thing I have learned through all of this is how important it is to keep using the language in order to retain it. I suppose in France I won’t have a choice but for now I will have to dig out my old Walkman and Michel Thomas tapes!

If anyone has any helpful tips or ideas about learning French please let me know.

Andrew :-)


4 weeks left!!

This time in 4 weeks we'll be in France! Aaaggh! I'm entering into slight panic mode as I think about all the things we should be sorting out. June was supposed to be my month for looking into things like health insurance, car insurance (for the car we don't yet have,) business insurance and getting documents translated. I've only just sent off my driving licence to change my surname from maiden to married. Instead we are currently spending our evenings getting our french business websites up and running so that we can start drumming up some interest.

Reuben is desperate to get out there. It's hard to know how much he understands about the concept of time...'is it still 5 weeks mummy?' We've been talking to him about the move so much he's ready to 'get on the train that you can put the car on.' 

Yes you read that correctly. For those of you that have read the travelling with kids post I said that I would never drive down to the house again. But Andrew is coming out slightly later than me and the kids as he finishes work the week after we leave, and there is no way you would get me on a plane with the boys on my own. My dad decided he was going to drive down on the 17th July so we are going with him. We're just deciding whether to do the journey in 2 days, or be really stupid and spend one long day travelling.

What do you think? One day of travelling hell or two?!

Becky x

Learning to drive

The reaction from most people when I tell them I'm moving to France is along the lines of "you must be crazy. Giving up a good job and good money to move to a country where you have no job and can't even speak the language!" Usually by the end of the conversation most people understand why we are doing it and some even want to come with us. It does feel a bit crazy and it is a risk but it also feels like absolutely the right thing to do and the best time to do it. Reuben is just about to go to big school and we don't want to be working our derrières off to live month to month and only see each other for 5 minutes. France will give us a better quality of life where we get to spend time together, eat good food together and grow together as a family.

There is however (as Becky continuously reminds me as if I don't already know) lots to do. Apart from the obvious - learn french; find employment and an income; get health insurance, school and residency sorted out; and start a business. Fairly small things I think you'd agree! I also need to learn to drive.

Although I was given driving lessons for birthdays and had plenty of opportunities to get it done, I instead, in my infinite youthful wisdom, spent my time partying, socialising and engaging in far more important things other than committing myself to meaningful and useful activities that would better myself and improve my future prospects. As I got older it was a case of time, money and the convenience of public transport that prevented me from spending hundreds of pounds on something I didn't really need.

So here I am, an old dog trying to learn new tricks. I started by booking my theory test. After studying religiously on my hour long journeys to and from work I sat the test and failed by 2 points. I only managed to get half way through the theory app I was using and it just so happened that I was given questions I'd never seen before. Anyway I persevered and passed the second time round. Phew! What a relief. By this time I had already started my driving lessons (cue cheesy picture!).

After shopping around I got a good deal with BSM and feel quite lucky that I got a down-to-earth no-nonsense driving instructor who had me driving on main roads and dual carriage ways by the second lesson. I've been cramming in the lessons and I'm slowly getting the hang of it. I've already got my test booked so there's no going back now. This is one crucial box that needs to be ticked so that we can make a living and live the life we want to in France. Wish me luck!

Andrew :-)

Happy Father's Day!

Today in the UK we celebrate Father's Day, and so it seems also in France. Andrew got a (slight) lie in this morning and then all the boys got treated to breakfast in bed and a viewing of Madagascar 3. We had lunch out in a cafe, something we rarely do as Jacob has yet to learn how to sit for longer than 5 mins, and then had a lazy afternoon watching films and playing outside in the sun, which decided to make an appearance after a morning of rain!

We wish all the dad's a very Happy Father's Day! What have you been doing with your dad today?

Becky x

Last weekends in London...Greenwich

There are so many things in London that we haven't done yet. With the big move just over a month away weekends are disappearing fast. I feel the need to get the family out and about visiting all those places we haven't quite managed to get to yet. This weekend we trekked across London to Greenwich, our destination being the National Maritime Museum. It was as much about the journey as getting there as we took the train to Waterloo and then the Thames Clipper all the way to Greenwich.

I don't know who was more excited me or the kids! The Clipper is a bit like a bus on the water, with stops along the way. The kids were thrilled with rounds of 'whoo whoo' as it picked up speed. It's a great way to view some of the best bits of London...the London eye where we embarked, the iconic buildings of the Shard and the Gherkin, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

At Greenwich we were greeted by the Cutty Sark which the kids decided was a pirate ship. Despite glorious sunshine the day before it was cold and cloudy, but we braved the wind nevertheless and had a picnic in the grounds of the University before venturing into the Maritime Museum. Here we let the children lead the way as they explored the exhibitions, found some treasure, and had fun pushing each other around on toy boats on a giant map of the world. They got creative and took part in a workshop where they got to create their own maps. They each came up with their own land and we ended up with a train land, dinosaur land, monkey land and battleships at sea!

Creating their own maps
I thoroughly recommend Greenwich as a place to visit if you are in London as there is so much to explore. As well as Cutty Sark and the Maritime Museum there is also the Queens House and the Royal Observatory. I'm gutted we didn't walk up the hill to see the Observatory, especially as it's one of the places Reuben has to tick off in his Charley & Lola London book! There is also a great market and of course the Royal Park. We will just have to add it to our list of things to do when we return to London for holidays!
Becky x

NCT Nearly New Sales

If you ever have the need to get rid of unused baby equipment/toys/clothes, book a table at your local NCT Nearly New Sale. It's basically a table top sale specifically aimed those wanting to buy/sell baby things. The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) is a charity that supports parents through pregnancy, birth and early childhood. There are local branches all over the UK and each varies in the services that they offer. Our local branch, Sutton, Epsom & District, is very active with courses, playgroups, sales and other events held throughout the year. We have used its services and I have been a volunteer ever since we were pregnant with Reuben. The nearly new sales are great as anyone who has children will know that toys are expensive, some ridiculously so. Andrew and I booked a table and hoped that we would at least get our money back for the cost of the table.

The sales can be dangerous places. There are those that browse and hang around till the end for the bargains. And then there are those who know exactly what they want and are in and out like a flash, knocking everyone out the way as they wade through the crowds with their nursing pillow/baby walker/moses basket. We had various items that we wanted to get rid of. Clothes we had in boxes at 50p each. We discovered we had five snowsuits (one not even worn) and managed to sell one. Both our baby slings went at £5 each. We sold our lovely fluffy Itti Bitti washable nappy set to a pregnant couple who wanted to go down the eco friendly route (we tried with both but I couldn't keep up with the washing and at times it did get a bit messy!) The little pram (blue of course) that Reuben loved pushing around when he was little went. The nightlight that projected stars onto the ceiling that was supposed to get Jacob to sleep but most nights kept him awake because he liked to point and play with the stars went. We had a good day and came away with a profit and a smaller number of boxes.

I'm usually a buyer at these sales and admit I did walk around a few times and could have quite easily parted with some cash. But I was good and managed to spend only 50p on a Thomas train carrier for Reuben (not including the tea and cupcakes from the cake stand next to us to keep us going.) This may seem like a good buy but when I brought it to him thinking he would be thrilled he said he didn't want it and hasn't used it since. That'll teach me!

Becky x
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