Saturday, May 29, 2010

Monday 24th May, 2010 to Saturday 29th May,2010

Saturday, 29th May, 2010
We spent a slow morning and had several discussions about what we would do and where we would go as we wanted to get our tickets for Provence. Eventually we decided to go to Senlis to the SNCF office. Senlis has been my nemesis, but we drove in and found a car park without any problems. I had discovered that I hadn’t driven through a red light the other day, just through a give way line, so I felt better. I asked where the office was and we found our way there just to discover that it as closed for an hour. On the way to find something for lunch we came across a beautiful baby shop and bought a little outfit for the newest Gillett arrival. We wandered off and Gray went back to check if there was the need for a ticket in the car park as we forgot to look.
We found a nice place for lunch and once again had a delicious meal. The French chefs certainly know how to cook a pave of beef.
We went back to the SNCF office and there was a very helpful lady in there who booked us our seats and didn’t complain at all when the tickets were printed and we realised we were sitting down the bottom of the train rather than the top. She just changed them over happily. She was a bit different from the gorgon in the Chantilly train office.
We found a Nicolas, a wine shop, and as I was explaining that I couldn’t find a wine I really liked, Shell came out by mistake with the fact I didn’t like French wine, she realised later. We found a supermarket and then went back to the car and off home.
I did the washing and more blogging and Shell discovered a better way to pump the mattress up more. The washing was on the balcony being very lightly rained upon.

Friday, 28th May, 2010
6.30 came too early! Shell got up and had breakfast with me and I aimed to get there a bit early as I hadn’t done any preparation the night before.
All was quiet for the first hour and a half and then Nabil became his usual self. He was completely off the air which was sad because he has been good. The day for him went from bad to worse and finally finished with him being brought in, banned from sport in the afternoon. The children finished their hats and Sharon judged them for me. England had rung to say they had received Sharon’s hats and how absolutely thrilled they were with them. This bodes well for the competition! I had an email from Isabelle and they are right to come next Sunday for lunch. We are having a great time visiting people and being visited.
Gray came in for Sport and was happier with the way the children were participating. They are just not team players and have no idea of playing hard.
Shell had come into Chantilly on the bus with him and had then gone for a walk to try and find the swimming pool which I had been told was a 2 minute walk down the road near the school. She messaged at 4 and said she was at the Chocolatier in Chantilly and could we meet here there. We did and I had coffee and a pain au raisin. I am having too many of these lately, but they are so yummy.
We went back to Avilly and decided to have dinner at home seeing we had had coffee out.
We opened the special wine from Le Mont Saint Michel to have as an aperitif. It was all right, but not so special. I am still trying to find a nice French red wine that I like.
By the time we had had dinner it was rather late and I was ready for more sleep. I blogged a bit and then gave in.

Thursday, 27th May, 2010
The alarm went off at 5am and up we got in the dark. I figured we needed to leave at a quarter to 6 as we didn’t think Shell had had any of our messages and we needed to be at the exit as she arrived. We set the tomtom and set off. It led us very nicely to the beginning of the Aerogare 1 and we just followed the road round, and round and round and up into the Parking Station. We went to find the Arrivals and when we looked on the board, to our horror, Shell’s flight was delayed and not due in till 8.11 am.
Oh dear! School starts at 8.30! What to do? It was too early to call Loretta and so we had a coffee. It was another case of there is nothing we could do, but sit in an airport chair and wait. We bought a newspaper and read about the grève. It appears that some of the trains were running, but we thought it was just as well we were there because otherwise Gray would have been at Gare du Nord waiting and waiting for a few hours not knowing what was going on. I sent a text to Loretta and then I sat with 2 mobiles on my lap and waited. One eventually rang and Loretta said she was on a train going to school and it was fine. I would get there when I could.
Shortly after the board said the plane had landed, my mobile went and it was Shell saying she had just got my message. I sent back that we were there and we waited some more. Eventually she appeared and we headed back to the car. The lifts did their usual. Each time someone pressed a button, the directional light changed. We followed Tomtom’s directions and got back easily in good time. I dropped Gray and Shell at home and drove off to school arriving only about an hour late. My guys were in with Claire the French teacher, finishing Mother’s Day presents. They came back in with me and Nabil started to play up a bit. They worked on their Floppy the Dog’s Hats to try and win 300 English pounds worth of reading books and started their glass painting for their Mothers’ Day candle holders. We worked on all these things again in the afternoon and some people finished.
I arrived home about 5 o’clock and we decided to go back into Chantilly for dinner as I was too tired to cook. We drove in and I told Shell to watch around the next corner. She was suitably amazed. Each day I drive through tunnels of green trees and roundabouts and then suddenly I come to one cobblestoned roundabout and the close view of the Chateau Chantilly. It is so big and old and has beautiful stonework and turrets and sits in the middle of a lake. It is history just sitting there in the middle of the countryside. We drove on into Chantilly and I managed a parking spot on the pavement. I am still not brave enough to try and back into a space between two cars. We went to Giorgios and had a nice meal, but the grumpy waitress was on. We went home not too late. Then began the fun! We had bought a double blow up mattress and a pump, but hadn’t tried it out. We unpacked it and after many laughs and changing of pumpers, we brought it to a “sleep on” stage. We would add more air tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26th May, 2010
The alarm went off and I seemed more tired than usual. I made my breakfast and got the ironing board out. I looked at my phone for the time and discovered it was only 9 minutes past 6! What was going on. The alarm was sill set! I looked at the messages and it was a jolly message that had come in from Shell who was just boarding the plane so I had thought it was the alarm and climbed out at 5.30 Ugh!!! I went back to bed and read till a decent hour.
The Wednesday children were good, some of them are improving in English and some of my group are just like me. I say,”Ma française à disparu aujourd’hui” and they say “My English has disappeared today!”
Gray came in from the market in Chantilly carrying a huge bag of vegetables and some cheese (of course!). We went to the station to get him a ticket for the next morning early as he was going to meet Shell at Gare du Nord. Sadly I struck the only really nasty woman I have met in France and all she could say was grève, grève. I looked this up and found it was Strike! She told me to look on the door for times and I told her our daughter was coming in to the airport at 6.40am. She shrugged and virtually said “Tough!”
We stressed about this and tried to contact Loretta. I thought I would drive and get her and with any luck be home for school in time. How French!
We went to Saint Maximin to do the shopping. We put it all through the check out and packed it all up. You have to pack your own here! Then my card wouldn’t work in her machine. It always takes an age, but she got impatient and started pushing buttons. This wrecked her whole system and after quite a while with a supervisor present, we had to unpack and put it all through again. All was well and we went to buy lots of paint at Cultura for Sharon to start painting the backdrops for the School Production. Lately I have been much happier driving on the roads around here. However, things can still go haywire as I discovered when trying to find the way out from Cora to get to Cultura. I went on to the roundabout and couldn’t find a way off until another couple of cars came on and I discovered, to my horror, that I was going the wrong way around the round about. Aarggh! I backed into one entrance and then drove around it properly and found an exit.
Another French thing! They talked about getting paint in the staff meeting and waffled around as to who would get it and when. I said we were going shopping so I would. When I gave the docket in the next morning, I was met with an amazed look and “Already!” Nothing happens here in a hurry!
We made dinner and I rang Rochelle to see whether or not I could get to the airport and back in time fro school. She is so lovely! She offered to go for me, but she has 3 children to get to different schools so I refused.
Eventually Loretta rang and said it was fine, just get to school when I could. I looked everywhere on the Internet to see if I could find arrival times for Charles de Gaulle and for Malaysian airlines so we could check in the morning, but there was nowhere. I went to bed as we were going to have another early morning.

Tuesday, 25th May, 2010
The alarm went off at 6.30 as usual and I stumbled out of bed, unwillingly, to get ready for school. It was quite warm for a change and not a bad drive in. I felt far more comfortable in the car as we had driven that far to Le Mont Saint Michel. I was first as usual and had everything ready as the children arrived. Nabil wasn’t great, but not too bad.
The day progressed as usual and we did “rope” as usual.
Gray was really sore and tired so went back to bed after our lots of walking at the weekend. He went for an easy walk to the Bar and Tabac to buy a baguette only to find it closed. How annoying, no bread and no beer!
We had a staff meeting which I had to run as Loretta had a sudden board meeting so I didn’t arrive home until nearly 6.

Monday, 24th May, 2010
We woke on Monday morning and had one tray of breakfast in the room. In France they don’t have the same Accor deal where you have one free meal each time we eat, but we still accrued a lot of points.
We packed up and left about 9.30am heeding Sharon’s warning of Long Weekend traffic. Tomtom did a good job and took us back to the motorways and we headed for home. We had wanted to go through some small villages, but thought that it would be much slower and a four hour something trip was quite long enough. We decided to leave the tollway and have lunch in Vernon and go to Giverny to Monet’s Garden. Lunch was good. Very rarely do people now answer me in English when I speak French to them. The light still hasn’t gone on yet though and I do not think in French yet either.
We found our way to Giverny and walked through to buy our tickets. We had to go to a different place from where Nic and I went in last year and we joined a long, long queue. I realised that we had bought our tickets before we went last year and so could go in a different entrance. We would have taken about an hour to get to the front of the queue and it would have been nearly three before we even got into the gardens so we left, deciding to get tickets and go back one Wednesday afternoon when Shell was with us.
We changed Tomtom’s route and followed him home arriving at a decent hour with time to prepare fro school on the Tuesday.
Had messaged a bit with Loretta and they were stuck in traffic going back to Paris so we were really happy that we had left early.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday 17th May 2010 till Sunday 23rd May 2010

Sunday, 23rd May, 2010
I woke to the harmonious sounds of sleep machine next to me,so I was up rather too early for my liking. We dressed in summer clothes as it promised to be another warm day and then packed up. As we were doing this, our breakfast arrived and the description “a groaning tray of food” had nothing on our tray. It was very heavy and contained tea, coffee, juice, yoghurt, fruit, jam, butter, croissants, bread, pain au chocolat, bread, cheese and various types of meat. After we had eaten through some of this, we finished packing and left the hotel. We asked if they had another night as we could cancel the other without penalty, but unfortunately they were all booked out. We joined the crowd and drove out across the dyke towards the Mont. We were early, but there were thousands of cars and motorhomes and cars and bikes out there already. (This is no exaggeration as you will see when I eventually get photos up.) People seem to spend the night in their motorhomes out there. Things have changed rapidly since I was there in the 70s as they would all have been swept away when the tide came in. Nowadays there is only a small amount of water because the dyke has changed the ecological way things work and the River Cuesnon has a lot of silt. There are huge programs under way to try to restore it to the way it used to be. Still a steady stream of cars poured in behind us.
We walked a long way to the bottom of Le Mont along with many other people. It is an amazing sight from the base of it as the old stonework forming the buildings and the abbey is fabulous and just…so old. According to the book we bought, the first building on it was in 700AD. The actual abbey was built in 1300s. All the stones were pulled up by a huge wooden wheel, a replica of which is there today.
The crowds were large as we walked up the cobblestones, through the steep alley lined with tourist shops and restaurants. One line going up and one coming down and no-one else able to go past. We walked up and up and eventually decided to go into a museum house, a museum and a son et lumiere. This was great as it was all in French. However, I managed to understand a lot of it. Gray got some and I could help with some. When we exited this we were at the beginning of the abbey. More climbing, up, up, up till we eventually went into a hall to pay and begin our Abbey experience. There were lots of people, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Each room had a plaque as to what it was and we had a brochure. There was a service taking place in the Abbey, which was full. We were able to watch some of it. Outside the Abbey the view was over the sand flats that extended for kilometres. People were walking over them and swimming. There were huge groups of people walking around the sands and we discovered that these were groups of pilgrims making a pilgrimage both to the Abbey and to other sites kilometres away. We walked through all the rooms of the Monks’ area which led us back down to the main hall. We had to leave by les Jardins and we walked a long way further to the exit of the Abbey area.
Now, we were tired and hungry so we looked for a restaurant and had a delicious lunch. I went for steak because, as nice as my seafood was the night before, I miss my meat.
After lunch, Gray decided that he really should have bought the stamp he had seen up in the Abbey shop and he would walk back up to get it. I found a bit of protruding rock in a wall and sat and waited for him. He returned empty-handed as he couldn’t find the Les Jardins exit and wasn’t going to queue in the IN line for ages.
We decided we had had enough walking so we would go back to the car and book in at the next hotel. That was easier said than done as there was now wall to wall people climbing the Rue and going down. We just stepped out into the flow and were carried down in a crush of humanity. We eventually reached the bottom and walked back to the car. Now there were two rows of huge coaches on the road at the bottom of the entrance and thousands upon thousands of cars. The sign had said that the tide would come in at 3 and take about 3 hours. It certainly wasn’t the rush of water that had come in 38 years ago when I was last there.
We found the car and joined the steady stream of vehicles moving towards the exit. Then we crawled back into the village and booked into the Mercure Motel. It wasn’t as exotic as the Relais le Saint Michel, but it was comfortable and it was a bed for the night.
We walked around the village and did some shopping. Then we decided to walk back part of the way and see what the water was doing. It was a little higher in the Cuesnan, but not much. We watched a family of ducks, nine ducklings, swimming down the river and some other birds. We walked back towards the motel and went down a road at the back, only to discover a large fence that we couldn’t pass so we had to walk back and through one hotel’s bottom floor. We had dinner in the restaurant that was attached to the hotel and sat outside under an umbrella. We had been thinking of driving back out to Le Mont at dusk as Pierre Eric said it was very different, but suddenly realised I had had a couple of glasses of wine and might be slightly over the limit so we didn’t.
For the first time in France we saw about 6 or 7 buses full of Japanese Tourists in the village and up on Le Mont.

Saturday, 22nd May, 2010
Up quite early and we had breakfast, packed and left about 10. We had the tomtom on and decided to follow it carefully. Well we started out that way until it told me to turn left and I missed it. Oh well, it repositioned itself and picked us up again. We went on to a Toll way, something I had been scared of doing, because of the money. I had texted a Mum the night before and asked if I needed, notes, coins or a card. Back came the answer of all three are ok. Well here we went. There was a toll booth and a toll collector. All my worries vanished at once. This was different from what I had been led to expect. Another fear dispelled! When on earth did I become so fearful of so many things?
We followed our Tomtoms directions religiously, but discovered that bear left does not mean turn left. Well we went round a sort of a square round about and a few streets, three times till I worked that fact out. Back we headed for the motorway and kept going. We pulled off into a garage cum food place along the way to have some lunch, after we had passed a few and worked out that yes they did come back on to the motorway. It is all so different that you can take nothing for granted.
The next few kilometers were very busy and there were huge hold ups at the toll booths. There was also roadworks along the way which is great on a holiday weekend and I was sure that the left lane wasn’t as wide as our car. It did turn out to be all right though. Next point of interest was going towards Caen. Take the exit and keep left, so I did and then when it said keep left I became a bit disorientated and we ended up back on the motorway. Oops! Never mind Tomtom fixed us up and we continued on our way. Sharon had said don’t leave too late and I am very glad we took her advice as it was slow enough at that time.
Eventually we came across signs to Le Mont Saint Michel and Gray thought he spotted it between the trees. Then it disappeared again. We stopped at one hotel to ask for directions as when I had put the co-ordinates into the Tomtom, it came out as East for the latitude not west, so we didn’t have firm instructions of the actual place. We eventually arrived at our exotic location for the night and found ourselves in a magnificent room looking straight out to the Mont itself. Wow what a view. Room was great and internet was free so lots of emailing and we even talked to Mum on Skype. Only one detail missing; no coffee making things! Very strange for a four star hotel! We had a walk a little way along the path and then to a local supermarket and bought some wine, beer and nibbles and yet another tire buchon, as all the other three corkscrews were in Avilly. We sat out on our small verandah and enjoyed the early part of the evening.
At seven we went to dinner and were seated right at the front window with an amazing view of the mountain. The food was delicious. For entrée I had Paté de Foie canard and Gay had a seafood tasting plate. The waiter came with a selection of 5 extra pieces of cutlery I think it as and laid them out on the table setting. The plate was huge and he had winkles which he had never had before. For main course we both had lobster, mine was with white butter and Gray’s was supposedly flambé, but the waiter came with his little copper pot of Calvados and it wouldn’t light. Really didn’t matter as the taste was still there. I have always hated watching people eat lobster at the table because of the mess it makes. Well…! Now I hate it even more because I managed to make more mess than anyone I have ever seen. Meanwhile the night was beginning to get a bit darker and I took photos of the Mont through our window. Card were streaming out and back in all the time.
Desert was delicious too, Gray had profiteroles. Over here they are all filled with ice-cream and then I had a coffee. Back in the room I continued to take photos and it was finally dark just after 10.
I did my usual, very little sleep in a strange place so was very tired.

Friday, 21st May, 2010
I was in quite early and set up the computers. Sharon has invited us to her home for a barbeque on Sunday next week. That will be nice to be able to socialise with her without all the hassles of school.
The printer, which I thought I had wrecked worked again, thank heavens. We had a spelling test and they all answered the Borenore children’s emails. I tried to make them all email accounts of their own, but it was too difficult as the computer was reading between Australia and France and didn’t like the fact.
We covered a lot of work and finished our artworks as well. Some people started on their Floppy dog’s hat. Nabil was pretty well behaved. Slowly I seem to be winning, but it is a three day weekend so Tuesday will be interesting. I just seem to have to be the dragon and he is good.
Had time off and wrecked the printer again. This is a difficult one as no one seems to do computer things at all. Gray came in for sport in the afternoon and I had 2 Maternelle 6 year olds who can’t read yet. Oh dear! One has quite a lot, one has not much at all and the two who are French have NONE, were away. More next week, but we did have a happy Mum. Sport is another thing! Frustrates Gray no end. There are 16 of them and they don’t move around. They will look at the cricket ball instead of chasing it in continuous cricket. Obne good little fello wasn’t listening to him at all and reminded him that he had no English. We speak a strange jargon when we are giving instructions so that everyone understands.
We didn’t go out for dinner as we were going away for the weekend. We were so tired, we didn’t even pack. Decided to do that tomorrow.

Thursday, 20th May.2010
I was really tired this morning and didn’t want to get up. I spoke with Shell as there was no email from her saying she had booked. She is still vaccilating she said. …so… will we see her, will we not!
Nabil was nicely settled for most of the day for me. He is still hard work and played up no end in the playground and wasn’t very good for the French teacher. Gray walked into Chantilly along the so called Forest Track. It was most disappointing as there was a large wall on one side of the track and a fence on the other. He had a beer and then found couldn’t get a bus for a long time so he walked back home. He was exhausted when I came in.
School was an interesting day. Loretta was yelled at again by Claire who didn’t like something that had to be done. I went in to make her some tea and heard Claire say something very loudly as I walked past, so I opened the door and said nicely,
“Did you say something?” Well now I know what it feels like to have someone yelling in an extremely loud voice at me as I stood there hoping to calm her down. She was shouting full bore at the situation. Two little girls had come inside for something and went back to Loretta to tell her we were having a fight. I hastened to tell them, that I don’t fight and had gone in because I knew she was upset, to see if I could help. How unprofessional to scream at people like that! I have never seen or heard anything like it. Life is full of different experiences over here.
At lunchtime they skipped again. As soon as the Maternelle bell rings, the cry goes up, “Rope!” and Mrs Doherty will you turn rope please?” I now have tennis elbow or some such ailment in my arm, but how can you not play with them. It gives them something to do in the concrete yard and they just love it. I do have to look up some more skipping rhymes because I could only really remember Teddy bear, teddy bear and I am heartily sick of that one. Nabil is always a problem when I am not out there and just want to tell the others that if they got up and played a game or two with the children instead of sitting in a line on their chairs he would be better for them too. Ah me!
Thursday afternoon they finished off most of their museum book work although some will still be going next week. The room is beginning to look more like my classroom now thank heavens.
I was late home as was helping Loretta. Had an email from Isabelle and they will come and visit us soon. We had been hoping to see mo and Gaynor as they drove from Calais to Orleans, but it was not to be. That is sad. He said they might come for a weekend, but we worked out we only have 3 free weekends left in our time here. I can’t believe how fast it is going.

Wednesday, 19th May, 2010
Had emails from mum and others. Mum skyped me at school but I missed her. Shell thinks she will come. We had Music and the children showed the instruments they had made. I then played the guitar and we sang. I am not very good at it at all really. I think it is because a) Loretta is there and I never play well in front of adults and b) it is a small one and doesn’t have much sound coming out of it. We had a good lesson with my English Class. Gray came from the market with a bag full of cheese and vegetables and we came home and had lunch. I put all the shopping away and we then went to St Maximin to do the weekly shop. It becomes easier each time. We bought all the food, not quite so much as last time as we were going away. We couldn’t find a Post Office, but there was a stamp machine. We had many goes at trying to get stamps of the right amount and in the end we gave up. We came home via Chantilly so gray could go to the post office. I found a parking spot on the pavement and drove on to it, as you do here. He went to the Post Office and I got a ticket from the machine to put in the car window…and another ticket…! Eventually he came back with a story of a fellow trying to get a passport and everyone in the line huffing and puffing because it was taking so long. They are a very patient people the French…haha!
We bought some maps while we were in Cora to see where we would go on Saturday to get to Le Mont Saint Michel and after dinner we put them out on the floor to look. I managed to get one hotel booked for the Sunday night, but everywhere seems completely booked out for the Saturday night. Eventually I found one at an exorbitant price and we decided just to take it as otherwise we might not find one anywhere. I was happy to have a bed for each night.
We went home and unpacked everything and I made dinner and then did my work. I was very tired once more.

Tuesday 18th May, 2010
4 degrees in car this morning. Gate at school was shut so I had to try and open it. The car fitted on to the pavement in front of it. Just! I had to use every muscle I have to push the gate open on both sides. Ah well, I have done it now, so I know I can do it! The fear of it has gone! Now I can go earlier if I want to. School is supposed to start at 8.30 so there is never enough time to do everything before it starts, especially if I want to read the emails.
We had a good morning! Nabil was pretty good. The others were keen to work and are enjoying the freedom of doing work that isn’t as formal that they are used to all the time. Their presentation skills leave a lot to be desired. Humbert and Nabil have a huge college exam tomorrow. Nabil couldn’t have cared less, but I spent the morning answering Humbert’s mathematical questions. There are so many things they haven’t covered this year! It is a bit scary!
I had from 11.30 off this morning with just Break duty and Lunchtime duty. I am still turning rope or playing Dodgeball. We have converted one Maternelle person to play and Loretta will turn rope, but the rest just say no and stay sitting on their chairs in the sun if there is any. It is incredible. The children are all playing together and having loads of fun, but they do need some help to do some of these things! One of the great delights is watching 6 year olds, Ange and Nicolas having such fun running in and skipping successfully. Nicolas’ face almost splits in two, his grin is so huge.
Gray took it easy today and only went as far as Courteuil. The woman at Tabac told Gray that she was only closed yesterday because it was so cold! He bought home a baguette and had lunch.
My French hasn’t reappeared properly yet. It is a bit of a worry.
Good one from Gray tonight! His new red shirt has shrunk!!! He won’t have it that it hasn’t and the cheese is starting to show. Hehehe!
Gigi bought ne a bag of new books to read today. This is great as I had read all the others. It is good having a personal library to borrow from when necessary.

Monday 17th May, 2010
It was rather cool this morning. The jockeys from across the road were snuggly rugged up when they set off. The dragon in me flared this morning and I laid down the law to Nabil and told him there was no way I was accepting anything except vastly improved behaviour. We all had a much better morning. He was pretty good in French as well. The afternoon was more pleasant and the others all enjoyed it much better.
Gray had been for a walk and looked rather dead when I eventually arrived home. It was much further than he had expected and he turned back through St Nicolas d’Acy or it would have been worse. He trudged into Courteuil to have a long awaited beer at the Tabac, only to find it closed! I am getting tired rather early and waiting for the clock to get to 10 o’clock. This is most unusual for me!
My French seems have disappeared! I have been concentrating so hard and trying to understand as much as I can and speak it as well, so maybe it is overload and it might be hidden in there somewhere.
Finally I managed to book a second hotel for the Saturday night this coming weekend. Monday is a holiday and we are heading to Mont Saint Michel for the weekend, but everything was booked out. I booked one for the Sunday night and we got the last room in a different hotel for the Saturday. It is quite a long way and I have set the Tomtom. However! It says go to the end of the road and turn right! This is a bit of a worry as it is taking us in the opposite direction from that on the map. We shall see! Next amusing instalment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday 10th May to Sunday 16th May, 2010

Sunday 16th May, 2010
A quiet day after our gadding around yesterday. I did the washing. It really isn’t hard to hand wash our clothes as nothing really gets dirty. There was a good wind so it all would dry in the day probably. I swept and mopped the floor. I do not like bare floors as you can never get rid of all the dust. For the rest of the day, I read and talked with Sian on computer and phone to fix my Optus account. Messaged with Nic and tried to get Shell, but she wasn’t answering.
We seem to do a lot of eating when we are home all day, but it was nice to just sit around. This evening we have our funny radio we bought. It is solar powered one which is also a dynamo and you wind it up when it runs out of power. It is really very funny.
The end of another week. They really are going very fast. We haven’t caught up with Maeve yet and I had a shock when I told her that we only had 7 weeks left and 3 or 4 of those are already booked up.

Saturday 15th May, 2010
Relaxed and sat around on the computer for quite a while. The other computer is better and I have a much more stable connection now, but still very slow. We talked about what time we would catch a train to Paris and looked at the timetable. Suddenly I realised we had better get a move on as we had to get parking ticket for the car and train tickets. We hurried off and did all the necessary things and sat on the station to wait. I was a bit puzzled as the grumpy ticket seller said the next train was at midi dix-sept, 12.17. This was a long time after the one I had found on the timetable. The wind was cold and we sat in the shelter as a few fast trains went past. We looked again at the timetable and discovered to our horror, and then amusement, that the ones we had found didn’t stop at Chantilly at all! Well the one she told me about, would be the one we would catch! Well we would have done if we had been on the right platform! I went back to the window and asked and she looked at me in horror! She became nice suddenly and said it had gone. You have to look 10 minutes before it comes to see which platform it would stop at! We went and had lunch in the hotel across the road and went back in time to catch the fast train to Paris with no problems.
We found our way around the Metro Map and caught a train to Concorde. We went up and out on to the edge of the Place de la Concorde. After a while we found the way to go and Gray began to remember where he had been with Nic last year. Only one problem, we had no cash! So we had to walk a long way up the Champs Elysée to find a bank and then back down to the arcade of stamps sellers’ tents in the Park. Gray looked and I wandered patiently along behind until I found a chair and sat and waited. It was cold. The wind was freezing! We had taken a bag full of extra clothes and by the time we came home we were wearing just about all of them.
We wandered back down the Champs Elysée and found a restaurant called La Nôtre and we went in and had coffee and macarons. Gray had chocolate which looked like completely melted chocolate in a cup.
Loretta had messaged to say we should meet for an aperitif or dinner. She said it would be too early to eat so we thought we would have a drink and then go back and eat in Chantilly. We were to meet at 6pm, so we still had 2 hours to wait. We walked all the way down to the Tuileries and sat and watched the children running around the pond with sailing boats and sticks that a man was hiring out. It got colder and colder. We decided to meet Loretta and Laurent earlier as we were so cold and walked on the through towards the Louvre to find a Metro. We came across a man selling small Eiffel Towers and as I had taken all the children back one each last year, bought some more. He quoted me an exorbitant price when I said 13 and started counting out piles of 10. We suddenly realised he thought i said 30 and he gave me 13 at a much cheaper price. We found we were on the wrong bank and headed off in the right direction, remembering where the metro was. We just managed to squeeze on the train and the doors shut right behind me. It is so squashy, it is amazing. We only had a few stops to go so it didn’t matter. We had walked miles and were tired. Loretta wanted to take us to Place des Voges to look around and so we walked another long way. When we got there we said we just had to sit so we had our drink and a chat for a while. The Place des Voges had a whole square of buildings built by several kings. They then led us to the Bastille Station and we returned to Gare du Nord for a train home. We had to get that one because there wasn’t another one for a few hours if we had missed it.
We got to the car and drove into Chantilly and went to Giorgio’s for dinner again. We sat next to a young family from Boston and had a pleasant night. The children were quiet and beautifully behaved and the parents were good company. Our friendly waiter from the night before asked would we back again the next night. We drove home and I booked a room for next weekend in Mont Saint Michel and then went to sleep.

Friday, 14th May, 2010
School as usual, but no time to do all I had to do this morning so a bit disorganized and no emailing done. Mum called on Skype so we had a bit of a talk. Nabil was off the planet. He was the worst he has been since the first day. The others are very sick of him. We only had 5 children and all the others did great work. They emailed Deb’s children at Borenore and Camille worked on their blog. Claire was away so I had them for the whole time till lunchtime. Gray came in to do sport so I stayed inside and fixed computers. It was really, really cold again. So much for spring! Because of the holiday we were lots of children down. Loretta only had 3 for the day so there were only 8 for sport.
After school I did some emailing and packing up and Loretta had some interviews at 5 something. We went home and discovered I had left one computer cord at school. Such a nuisance! We were going to dinner in Chantilly seeing it was Friday night so we called back in to school to see if the gate was still open and to collect the cord on the way. Anne-Laure was still there and very surprised to see us.
We decided that we would go back to Giorgio’s for dinner as we should try somewhere else rather than the Brasserie all the time. We walked all around Chantilly and hadn’t seen anything nicer.
We had a very friendly, helpful waiter for the night and the food was delicious. It was a much better experience than the girl at lunchtime on the Wednesday. Home in the dark. We are getting later and later, but managing well in places I am familiar with. I am sure most of my fear comes from the fact that it has to go back without a scratch on it. This is tough in France where most cars have scratches.

Thursday, 13th May, 2010
Today was Ascension Day so we had a holiday. Very nice too. I was so tired I didn’t do much for most of the day. In the afternoon we went for a drive. We went to look at the village of St Maximin to see what was there. Lots of cars were there at a car boot sale, but there wasn’t any room to park so we didn’t stop there. It seemed to be another village with a mixture of old and new. Some are done well like Avilly and some are awful. We found our way to the big petrol station in St Maximin, but this was disastrous! It is a card paying one and we couldn’t open the tank anyway. A young fellow spent an age looking for the button inside the car. He gave up and we set off to find something else. We decided to go into Chantilly and get it at the one there. On the way we came across an Elf one so I drove in and a nice friendly man showed us that it was open all the time when unlocked just like Gray’s Honda at home. Oh dear! Another laugh! We bought an icecream and sat and ate that in the freezing cold. We drove home through Chantilly and saw stacks of people at the castle so we stopped, parked and went to see. We couldn’t go in as Gray didn’t have his wallet and I didn’t have much cash, but we took photos and will go back another day. It is an amazing sight that I come across each morning on a roundabout on the way to school. We bought a coffee and went back to the car absolutely frozen and home to warm up.

Wednesday, 12th May, 2010
We only had a few children today as the French schools were making up days so that they didn’t have to go to school on Friday. Thursday is a holiday for Ascension Day and we were hoping to have Friday as well for an extra long weekend, but they had left it too late to ask. My French children were a bit restless, but beginning to try and speak more English each week. Gray had been to the market in Chantilly and got some fruit and vegetables and of course some cheese! He met Loretta and me in Chantilly for lunch . We went to Giorgio’s for the first time. The food was good, but the waitress was surly. We dropped Loretta back at school as there wasn’t a train for a long time so she went back to do some work. We took the market shopping home and then went to St Maximin for our rest of our weekly shopping. We got what we wanted and then we queued to get to the checkout. Nine trolleys in each queue!!!!! Zut alors! We were talking to a woman with a couple of small grandchildren with her. Coping in French, but she also said she spoke English, so that was helpful at the end of the day. However, another fellow was sounding forth and he had no English. We had a discussion about the state of the country, quite a few of us. Most of it I understood and could comment. Still a long way to go though!
Eventually we got though and thought we might eat there, but everything was still shut for another 10 minutes so we went home and cooked.

Tuesday 11th May, 2010
School as usual for me. Louise wasn’t there as she was going to Singapore with her mum. They were taking a horse to race. Camille wasn’t very pleased about it all in the beginning, but she was fine for the rest of the day. I spent my time off trying to fix computers in the Maternelle and Claire’s room. Gray was going to have lunch in Chantilly Castle, but when he was picked up by Rochelle and her aunty from Australia, Janet, they went to Pierrefonds Chateau as Chantilly was shut, being a Tuesday. They had lunch there and then, during the afternoon, Loretta came in and said would I please look at the message that had just come in on my phone. There was a message from Rochelle saying would I please pick up Sam from the College as they were running a bit late. Horrors! It was raining and I had no idea where to go. Gigi knew she said and Anne-Laure drew me a map. We got there safely and Sam then led us to Montgrasin as we were taking Gigi home and going to do the sheet and towel washing. They had all arrived home just before us. We put the washing on and had a couple of cups of coffee. We took one lot of towels and sheets home wet and left another load in the machine. Rochelle said she would deliver it to school. She is so kind. We discovered that there is another ash flow from Iceland. We decided that if it happens just when we wish to fly home, we will drive as far west as we need to and fly from there. We don’t want to be stuck again. At least we will be going the right way this time! Rochelle looked it up because Janet is supposed to be flying home soon, but most of it seems to have gone west this time and only closed some airports. I got a new collection to read from her which is good. Home safely in the dark and made dinner and did some work. Waiting on the doorstep was a large box of flowers from the girls and Guy for Mothers’ Day. They were pink rhododendrons and small greenish white hydrangeas. They were lovely.

Monday 10th May, 2010
Alarm went off at 6.30 as usual and I was reluctant to climb out as it was cold. Gray went down to the Bar and Tabac to see if he could get a paper, but they had all gone. He did, however, come home with a baguette. Surprise! Suzan gave him a letter from his Mum and also a key for the letter box so now we can look. I have put a Famille Doherty d’Australie on the door and I m supposed to be expecting something. Had a good day with 6 of the children, but it was the first day after a weekend so Nabil was off the air.
We had a meeting after school to work on the concert. I arrived home about 6pm.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2nd May to 9th May 2010

Sunday 9th May, 2010
Climbed out of bed at a quarter to 8 to a text from Nic wishing me a Happy Mothers’ Day. Also heard from Sian by internet with a card and Sammi by phone. For the first time in 32 years Gray did nothing! He has a chance on the 30th to redeem himself as it is French Mothers Day. He spoke to his mum by phone, but it ran out of credit so we shall have to buy some more this week. I was talking to mum and I ran out of credit, I recharged and had given her my number so we eventually got to talk to each other once the recharge had gone through. Nic and I tried all ways to get Skype and Google chat going, with no success and she eventually put money on Skype and rang on that. She wasn’t very happy.
I seem to go to sleep quite a lot when I work on the computer so went off to have a sleep in the afternoon. Not successfully as noise travels up from down below here as well as through our own part. They are not noisy but you can hear feet etc. some times. We went for a walk along the back laneway and came across a sports complex where there was a very loud, active game of soccer in progress and at the side of the field outside the fence was a large cleared area of dirt where there were many games of petanque being played. We wandered along and had a look at several of the games. There was beer for sale in the old shed and some kind of a BBQ, but we hadn’t taken any money. We continued our walk along the road and then down through the forest path. I took photos of many interesting different types of wild flowers. We walked back through Avilly and saw some beautiful houses and gardens and some very old parts. We then had to walk along the road I drive each day and it is very narrow so we walked on the edge of the canola crop eventually. The ground is full of small rocks, but the canola grows up through it. There are many fields of it around the Oise area.
We watched the big horse carrier return the beautiful horses it had taken out this morning. It pulls up outside the gate right next to where we live so I like to go out on the balcony and watch them when I am here. They are the most magnificent animals and well looked after. Michelline said I should ask Martine to take us in to see them one day and I shall.
I cooked dinner and then sat down to try and get the Blog writing up to date. Another week has gone. Time is going too fast.

Saturday, 8th May, 2010
We woke quite late again. My back isn’t great and doesn’t do too well in the mornings. It does tend to settle during the day. We emailed a bit and found one from Deb saying she had been talking to Pierre Eric. We set the Tomtom and set off. It was happy because we followed most of its directions to Senlis. When we arrived we went around the roundabout and off down the road we had come back in on Wednesday. Well I thought we did! We kept hearing Tomtom say take the next left, over ad over again and then we came to a town we didn’t know at all. Wrong road again! We did see some lovely countryside and old, old villages. Back we went and Tomtom led us to the right road. This was a pretty good road and I had looked on the map the night before and written down all the places we were likely to see on signs. This worked for some of the way and out Tomtom didn’t like the way we were going and kept trying to get us to turn around and go left or right. Useful if we didn’t know where we were going! We turned too early and I have to say that the tomtom led us back on to the right road. Now we had a bit more faith in it and we listened to it. It eventually led us right to the front door of Isabelle and Pierre Eric’s house.
They are delightful people and they made us very welcome. Marine was there and she just wants to go back to Australia. She is so different from when we first met her in Orange. She is working in childcare madly saving to return. I told Isabelle that we could do a swap. Nicky could live with them and Marine could come with us. She thought that was a great idea. It could happen tomorrow! We also met Valentin who is studying at University to be a Maths teacher.
The weather was beautiful so we sat outside and had aperitifs. I had red wine and we ate cashews, tiny cheese profiteroles and other snacks. We managed our conversations well. Pierre Eric, Marine and Valentin all wanted to speak English and I wanted to speak French, but Isabelle’s English wasn’t keeping up and neither was Gray’s French so we mixed both and translated in between. Mine is coming slowly. Marine was surprised at how much I have now.
We moved inside for the main dinner. The house is a few centuries old and just amazing. There are beams close together in the ceilings and the floor is made of hexagonal terra cotta tiles. It is a very uneven floor as old ones are and must be a nightmare to clean.
First course was homemade duck pâté de foie gras. They had been to a duck farm in November and today was the first time they were trying the pâté. It was simply amazing! No words could really describe its taste. We ate this with salad and balsamic vinegar. The second course was really good too. We had small potato squares well cooked, a bit like chips, but nicer and some duck. It was delicious and we were filling up. Next came the cheese! Brie and goat and something that looked blue, but wasn’t and some fake cheese Isabelle called it, made on crème frais. It was nice too, with bread to accompany the cheese. Then came desert! It was superb! Raspberries and cream and some soaked sponge and more fruit. The whole lunch was a gastronomic delight. We had coffee/tea outside in the sun and were surprised to find it was 4o’clock! Isabelle took me on a tour of the second and third storey of the house. It is so old. The bedrooms are on the second storey and then there is a little door in Valentin’s room and some worn away stairs that go up to the attic. The attic has 4 rooms in it and it incredible. It hasn’t been restored, but one day when they have some money they want to do it. It is an old house that you would dream about to restore, but it would take a fortune.
We left shortly afterwards with Pierre Eric’s instructions in our ears. It was much easier than coming, but Tomtom digressed at one stage ands we followed him. He led us most of the way properly. We arrived home quite late and just sat and talked about the day. I made a light plate because we had eaten so much and we sat and wrote journal and blog and I am ready for bed.

Friday 7th May,2010
Up at 6.30am again, arrived at school about a quarter to 8. Fortunately the gate was open and all was well. Margot was there already so I didn’t have to cope with locks and alarms. We worked hard in the morning and finished many things. At recess time I spoke only French with the staff outside. I have decided to do this as I really need to improve. Still waiting for the light. I spent my time off trying to fix Claire’s computer. It has masses of space, no viruses and is slower than a wet weekend. I had conversations on Skype with Sian to see if we can fix it. It is difficult trying to do it in French and the dictionary came into good use. I also listened to my class’s French lesson and decided I should go with them every day as I learned a lot. Claire did my lunch supervision and I kept on it. It all finished the scanning and I thought all would be well, but it is still slow. The school has no antivirus on most of its computers and no wireless security. It is a hackers and viruses dream. I have a lot to do in the few weeks left! The afternoon was sport and we ran around the chateau and then did stretches, dodge ball and some hockey skills out on the grass. Loretta talked after school and I left almost at 5. She has a difficult job as some people are very hard to get on with. Went home to Gray. He had caught the bus to Chantilly and gone to the market. He is a consummate shopper and had bought all sorts of things, some we needed and some we really didn’t, like 2 tiny cucumbers when we had a whole long one in the fridge drawer. Let him loose near cheese etc and he just has to buy!!! I am going to limit him soon as the fridge doesn’t hold it all and things go bad.
At 6.30pm we headed off into Chantilly for dinner at the Brasserie. It is always very nice. We know we have to find other places as well, but it is good to know we will always get good food and wine.

Thursday 6th May,2010
Off to school once more. I felt a bit dizzy when I got up and for most of the morning, but I think it was my neck from all the rope turning. I desperately need to look on the net for more skipping rhymes as the only one I could remember was Teddy bear, teddy bear and I am heartily sick of that one. Nabil came in with a tiny bit of a hair cut and a vastly different attitude. He worked very well for most of the day. He is on a behaviour contract which I hate, but I had tried everything else. So far so good.
I had kinder lunch supervision and some of the complete babies are beginning to let me help. They have no English and I was very strange, but they are coming around. There are children of so many Nationalities and mixed Nationalities. The food they bring in is amazing. Today we had sushi, salmon cutlet, lentils and chicken, plain green beans, all kind of Pasta, and lots of other exotic dishes.
We had a good morning and have almost finished the newspaper and they were working on the blog and their museum work. They love to do interesting work. Quentin brought in a cake that he and his mum had made for the homework a couple of weeks ago. I had brought an orange and we cut the orange up first and wrote all the fractions on the table in pencil. This was a novelty. They have gone from worksheets all the time to discovering and in a much more relaxed atmosphere. It amuses me when Nabil is naughty or talking and as one you can hear “Shoosh Nabil, we are working!” We skipped again today and they love it. Humbert is so tall and he does really well to get his feet over the bar in time.
After lunch we did some more on our projects and art.
Gray in the meantime had waited in all day for the builder who was supposed to be coming, but didn’t ever arrive.
We had liver for dinner. Most enjoyable.

Wednesday 5th May, 2010
Another cold and gloomy morning, but I am always warm enough. I suspect Gray goes back to bed when it is cold after he has let me out. My early time at school is precious as this is when I get my emailing done properly. My home connection is much better but still very slow so I do most things at school. We had assembly and then I had all the primary kids for music, the Wednesday children were there as well. We sang songs and did some rhythm patterns and drama while Loretta had a meeting. We went way over time and made it out to break at 20 to 11. It amuses me how it is such a big thing to have extra children sometimes. I am used to far more than 7, but evidently many teachers over here have to have a few days warning before they will take extra children. There is stress because one teacher will be away for a day next week and that will only leave a teacher, a full time aide and a prac student on class for 23 kids in the morning and 16 in the afternoon. I am afraid I laughed. I have 7 French speaking children after music on Wednesdays while mine go to French lessons. These children have no school in their own schools on Wednesdays so they come to the Bilingual School to learn English once a week. The children skipped all Break again. I asked one teacher to come and turn rope with me but was told no, she didn’t want to!!! School finished at 12 o’clock. Gray caught the bus to the Chantilly Markets on Wednesday morning under strict instructions not to buy anything. He is a compulsive buyer and just loves all the cheeses and patés around. He came to school and we went home together to have lunch and then to try and follow the Tomtom to Senlis and on the way to Annett sur Marne so that we will know where to go on Saturday. We started out all right and followed the tomtoms instructions until it wanted us to go left and we wanted to go straight on. We did! It recalibrated itself and then kept giving us weird instructions. As we drove in to Senlis Gray kept working out where he had been in the bus. He managed to get me to a roundabout and then was so busy telling me that was the pub he had had lunch in that we missed the turn off that the Tomtom said we should take. Eventually we found ourselves a way to turn around and set off on a road and somehow found the road we were looking for. We went down a certain way and turned off following a sign back to Senlis as we thought we would be right on Saturday. The road that took us back into Senlis was better so we thought we would follow this out on Saturday. The Tomtom didn’t like any of this and eventually I turned off the constant voice of take the next left, etc. It is a wonder we don’t hear it say , you are a silly driver! We came back through Courteuil and saw Gigi’s brother Harrison coming down the road. That was funny in the middle of nowhere! We were almost home and then I cooked. Another one of my gastronomic delights coming up! Among the delicious smells wafting though the room was another strange odour. We ate dinner amidst lots of laughter again. Who ever puts a large plastic sticker on the base of a frying pan? I hadn’t looked at the bottom of the pan and so had melted and melded a great plastic label. We got the stove clean quite easily, but there are still bits of plastic stuck in bits at the bottom of the pan. Gray had bought milk in Chantilly in the morning and was quite amazed later on that it only had one day until it ran out of date. No, he said, he hadn’t looked at the date. He will in future I think. We certainly do a lot of laughing in France.

Tuesday 4th May, 2010
World was gloomy, grey and cold this morning. A cool 5 degrees this morning. I arrived at school and the gate to the street was open. This is my fear now. One morning I watched a woman struggle to open the old green gate on to the street. It was extremely heavy and awkward so I hope each day it will be open when I get there. I had left my phone at school by accident and was horrified to find three missed calls and two messages from Loretta who had wanted to stay the night before. I felt awful as it was ringing away in the classroom not at home. The meeting she had finished after 10 and the next train back to Paris was at 11.40. She stayed with one of the parents in the end when she couldn’t reach us. I taught for the two hour morning period and Nabil was a little better behaved. Some better comments on his report today, but still a long way to go before I am satisfied. I was on RFF from 11.30 for the rest of the day except for some Playground supervision. I asked the girls if they had a long skipping rope and they dragged out a very old rope one which had several knots tied in along the way. I asked Loretta to turn rope with me and they skipped for a long time. Some could already and some had no idea. The best one was a 6 year old French/Vietnamese boy who mastered it and then couldn’t stop his grin. It went from one ear all the way round to the other with his mouth open. It was hilarious. After school, I went home and collected Gray so we could go shopping. He hadn’t walked as the day was too cold and almost raining. We went to San Maximin with ease and stopped in the Cora shopping area. We found a key cutting place, so that we could get extra keys cut for the flat and a battery for Gray’s watch. 9 euros11 for a key cut and we wanted two!! We didn’t! We just bought the battery. We then found a Pharmacie and I tried to buy some Swedish Bitters for Gray as his were running out. First I looked, then I queued, and a long time later when I eventually got to the front of the queue, the assistant had no English and sent me to a man on the other side. I queued again and waited and waited while he served someone. When I finally reached him, he had about the same amount of English as I had French. We bumbled around and around and eventually we were successful and I walked out triumphantly to Gray with my bottle of Elixir du Suédois. Mind you it was 31 Euros for a much smaller Australian bottle that I bought for $19 on the internet! Then we tackled Cora again. Gray had the fruit weighing lady chuckling as he went back again and again with bags to be weighed. We bought a double blow up mattress and pump for those who would like to come and stay. You are welcome! We also bought another huge amount of food. It really isn’t so much when packed away into the small fridge. We also bought a small frying pan as the one in the cupboard is so large that it takes up both hotplates.
We decided to eat there and not have to cook when we reached home. We unpacked after 9 and I felt a bit too tired to do any work. I am really good at sitting down and falling asleep, usually about 6pm, but it was later this night. Tomorrow was an easy day so it was all right.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

24th April,2010 to 3rd May, 2010

24th April, 2010
I slept until 7.30 which was a luxury. We sat around for quite while and then headed off to Saint Maximin to do some shopping. We had a long list of things to buy to make us even more comfortable. We weren’t quite sure how to get there and asked the lady who lived downstairs where we should go. Haven’t quite got the Tomtom working yet. She told us where to go and then said she would lead us. That was very kind of her and she took us most of the way there. It is an amazing place. Absolutely huge! Acre upon acre of shops. They are set out in roads and are roughly grouped in the same sort of businesses. We found But and bought a microwave, an iron, a kettle and an ironing board. We put them in the car and went off to find another place for a broom and other things. That one was shutting up and we had great fun and games as I had arrived at the checkout with a very colourful broom head and a different coloured handle. This was a no no and they asked loudly who spoke English and a customer came across and explained. She said I had time to run and get another one, which I did, one covered in ladybirds. We were the last to leave, being glared at by the security guard. We moved on to Fnac where we bought a new SIM card and an internet USB. Then we found another shop to buy a tea thing, coffee plunger and sharp knife.
We then drove to Cora, a supermarket/Big W type shop in a large mall. We first had lunch, a baguette and a pastry and then went into Cora. It is a massive place with a supermarket at one end of it and everything else you would want to buy at the other end. We had lots of fun. When you buy fruit or vegetables you must put them in a bag and line up to have them weighed if they cost per kilo. The assistant weighs them and puts a sticker on them before you get to the checkout. The array of magnificent cheeses and pates and sausages etc was just simply mouthwatering. We found a huge drying stand and sheets etc and all we wanted. I was coming back in triumph with some things when I slipped on a pile of something on the floor and went down on my knee. We finished shopping and found a security guard and reported my fall in case it turned nasty later. This was a feat as they had no English whatsoever. My French is limited, but we managed and I found I could make myself understood quite well. We eventually went home after many hours and many purchases. More fun, we followed the road we had come in on and found ourselves heading in the wrong direction up a main road. We came to a round about and back we went and managed to get ourselves home with only a slight detour in one part.
Putting everything away was fun as we have a tiny fridge and did an Australian type shop!

25th April, 2010
Anzc Day! Happy Birthday Dad! We slept in and lazed around. I tried out my internet USB again and it is so slow it isn’t funny. It times out before it brings the mail through. We went downstairs to give Suzanne some chocolates for being so kind the day before and she invited us in for a drink. She was the wife of the stable owner who had died, before Micheline’s family had owned it. She talked on in French and we understood some of it. We then went for a walk to St Leonard. We looked in the walled cemetery and looked at some of the very old graves and crypts. I said the Ode in front of the war memorial as it was Anzac Day. St Léonard is where the Town Hall (the Mairie) is and there is road a couple of kilometers long between the two villages. Some of the buildings are really ancient and some are very modern. Most are in walled compounds with gates that need codes to open them.
We walked back and had lunch and I did some hand washing and cleaned up.
I slept for a couple of hours and Gray did stamps and the journal. We cooked and enjoyed our meal. The end of another day and school tomorrow!

26th to 29th April, 2010
School, school, school!
Gray became adventurous this week and took himself off on his usual walks and then one day on the bus to Senlis to the markets. This was an interesting one as the first bus was going the wrong way and so he waited for the other one which happened to be the same driver. When they arrived in Senlis, the driver told the shuttle bus driver to look after him and get him off at the right stop. He bought some great cheese at the Senlis markets and it has lived out on the verandah since then. Good cheese, but shocking smell! We have a half day Wednesday so we went off to San Maximin again to try and fix the Internet and to get food and other small things we still needed. For someone who doesn’t like shopping, I have done an awful lot lately.
On Thursday morning the horse transport pulled up outside the gate. One horse was taken off and then the truck went off up the road. Great! I thought I can get out; but it had gone up to turn around and load horses in the other side. I fled down quickly and when he saw me coming out he kindly shut the doors and pulled up the ramp so I could get out. I don’t see how Hire Car companies can expect cars to come back unscratched, when every other car has scrapes and bangs on them. This is why I think I worry so much about it.

30th April, 2010
Up at 6.30 as usual and was ready to leave by 7.30. I didn’t want to be hemmed in by the horse van if it came again.
I went to school and unlocked everything as I was the first by quite a while to arrive. I hooked up the computers and one was making gurgling noises. I went to investigate and it was Mum on Skype. We had a good talk and then I did some mail. The children arrived and we started work at 8.30. There are so few of them that I can give individual Spelling tests.
I taught them for 2 hours and then it was time for Break. Nabil had brought in some Pizza pieces for his homework task. I had them for 2 hours in the morning. Then they had their time for French. I did 2 lots of supervision and after lunch we had sport for two hours from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. Ugh!
I spoke to Nabil’s Dad and said he was on a work contract to try and get his behaviour to improve. I also asked him to cut the hair. We shall see.
I went home after school to Gray. I didn’t have any passengers so we had time for a sit, a chat and a cup of coffee. We were going to Rochelle’s for an Aussie Barbeque
We drove to Montgrasin and looked for the green gate. We had stopped to ask, funny French was coming out of me, but the guy spoke a bit of English so I said “Rochelle” and he said “English lady” and I said “Australian”, but we found the green gate which had a number code that I eventually got it right. Well! What an amazing house. Original parts of it go back as far as the 1600s. I had a tour and the boys have their own huge space upstairs, with old beams going through all the length of the house. Gigi has her own room in an area and the main bedroom has a king sized four poster complete with all the curtains above. This was an amazing feat to get into the house and the men carrying it kept saying no way and Rochelle kept telling them they would do it. The house is in a courtyard and the family who own it all live in one bit and Rochelle and family live in another building. We had a great night with Loretta, Grace, a friend of Loretta’s and Nic’s, Frances, a parent from Wednesday school, Rochelle, children and Claire, the primary French teacher from school. We ate and ate and drank good wine and went home about 10.30pm. First time driving with lights! but we managed.

1st May, 2010
We slept till 9.30! Unheard of! We ate breakfast and I managed to get on to the internet and skyped with Shell and Sian and paid some bills and read and answered emails. We managed to contact Maeve eventually, but she was in Aix en Provence and we will probably meet up with her next weekend.
We caught the 13.15 TER train to Paris to Gare du Norde. We wandered around, bought a map and went to a café to have lunch and study the map. We had decided to go to the river and look around and then go to San Michel for dinner.
We discovered the pink line 4 that we used to catch with Nic was the one we wanted. We caught it to the Cité and went up to road level. We crossed on the bridge and discovered we were going the wrong way so we looked a bit on the right bank and then crossed on the Pont Neuf. We had great fun trying to find Nic’s good eating places in the narrow streets. I texted Loretta and she put us on the right track. There was a convoy of about 10 Police cars and wagons, all with sirens blaring, touring around the city and everywhere we went, they would suddenly appear. There were people everywhere selling Lily of the Valley plants for May Day. We stopped to have a drink at one stage and chuckled at two English girls who asked did they serve bear. The waiter latched on to this with a great laugh as he flirted with them. He set us on the right way to find the street.
One thing I love about Paris is the entertainment in the streets. It is the 1st May which is Labour Day so there was a lot going on. In one street there was a woman with a beautiful Operatic voice singing in the midst of the crowd who had all just stopped to listen. A few corners later, there was a Space suited band of 6 with various instruments just setting up. We stopped to listen before trying to find the restaurant streets. We had been going in the wrong direction to find the street I had eaten in with Nic, but we were a lot closer now and just happened to stumble across the restaurant eventually. We had a very nice dinner of snails, duck and beef etc Gray says the snails were a waste of effort and he won’t bother again, but the taste was nice. When the bill came I was horrified to find we had been charged for double the wine I had had. They changed it very quickly and were most apologetic. I wasn’t fooled though as many people never check their bills before paying.
We found our way back to the station of Saint Michel and caught the metro back to Gare du Nord. We arrived there and hurried to get a ticket for Chantilly as the train was due to go. We rushed along the platform and jumped into a door as the whistle blew. There we sat! They made an announcement of which we understood just a tiny bit and we eventually were moving about half an hour later. Once again we were home before dark which was good.
We had a nice day and it was good to be in Paris again.

Sunday 2nd May, 2010
Once again we slept rather late and had a very lazy day. I did skyping and emails and caught up with lots of bits and pieces. I did the washing by hand and we will take the sheets and towels to Rochelle’s. It isn’t hard and we do a little each day so it is mainly shirts on the weekend.
It was very cool and rained on and off so we just stayed in and did journal, blog,work and ate. A nice relaxing day.
I broke the corkscrew trying to remove the cork on anew bottle so once again, fun and games before I could get some wine.
It was quite late before we eventually retired.

Monday 3rd May
Alarm at 6.30! I climbed out of bed to find a world of grey, cold, gloom. It had obviously rained a lot in the night as there were puddles everywhere. There were no horse noses poking out of their horse boxes so it must have been cold. I left at 10 to 8 and the car temperature was 6 degrees. It is just like home.
We had a busy day and the newspaper is doing better and the children blogged and have gone home to look at it. I am amazed at the size of some of their homes. Two families in my room live in Chateaux and have no idea how many rooms there are in their houses.
I am hearing lots of French each day, but so far the light hasn’t gone on where I understand everything. I had a 3 year old correct me the other day when I used the masculine word for naughty to a little girl. It is great, they are all trying to help. Hopefully one day it will all come together.
Gray didn’t go out today as it was too yuck and we don’t have umbrellas. Tomorrow we will have to go shopping again as we are running out of food. Small fridges don’t hold a lot of food and I don’t think the food is bred to last a whole week without going off. We also need umbrellas and a new corkscrew. They haven’t believed in screwtop wines yet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

23rd April, 2010

The first sight out of the gate each morning as my torture begins. Our part. A closer view.
Our house . We have the top window on the far right.
View of the stables, throught the gate
The alarm went off at the proper time on Friday morning and I headed off to school about a quarter to 8. I got lost again and found myself around the High Schools somehow.The children are lovely except for Nabil, but he was a lot better today. However he is an absolute handful and a show off. I think he is very bright and has been bored in American schools for many years so has turned to bad behaviour instead. I taught for 2 hours and then we had Break supervision and the next 2 hours are off again for me.
The children went to the French teacher. I did playground duty and then we had 4 times around the "castle" Old Manor House in the grounds outside the gate and then sport on the asphalt. Well Lorretta, did while I looked on. We are locked in all day; the gate into the park is locked and the building is locked as well. You have to put in a code to open the boom gate from the street and an alarm code for the building.
I only got a bit lost going home and felt much better about it all. Gray had been walking in different parts again and we talked about where he had been. We drove back into Chantilly in the evening and parked on the footpath outside the Brasserie and had a nice dinner in the same place as on Wednesday night.It is a nice way to finish the week. We drove home in the daylight. It is good that it is still light till about 9.30 so we haven't had to tackle driving with lights yet. The house is comfortable and the bed is good. The shower is fantastic and that is a luxury because many French ones are not.

First Day of School

My phone alarm went off at 6.30 the next morning and I got up, feeling quite rested, but thinking it was very dark. I made my breakfast and lunch and had a shower and got dressed and thought that it was really still very dark and as it was summertime. It shouldn’t be quite that dark, without a sign of dawn anywhere. I looked at my watch and discovered to my horror and amusement that it was just 5.30. My phone was still on Dubai time, so I had carefully clambered out at 4.30. I didn’t to back to sleep, I did some Preparation on the computer for the day instead.

We had a good laugh about that and I set off just after 7.30 to try and get to school. I was absolutely terrified. The car felt bigger than the Kia and I had already tried to get in on the wrong side. Try was the operative word! I saw an awful lot of Chantilly that first morning and lots of it was on the narrowest roads that you have ever seen. At one intersection I realised I was on the wrong side of the road, so had to back up and move into the correct place, but then I couldn’t se the traffic lights as they are level with the front of the car and there are none on the other side of the road. Two ladies were having a good laugh on the kerb and there was a police car across the road. I turned and went down to another crossroad and got stuck in the middle, eventually going round when the traffic had to stop. In the end , I climbed out of the car and said to a man on the side of the road in a plaintive voice,

“Monsieur, Je suis perdue!” He had no English, but I understood à gauche, à droite, à gauche, à droite, even if I didn’t quite get to do that the first time. However I managed to follow the instructions with only one wrong turn and to arrive in one shaken piece and park in the wrong place. The day was going to be easy after this.

The staff were very pleased to see me. There were quite a few children stuck in different parts of the world as well such a Luxor, Portugal somewhere, Corsica and various other places. They staggered back in on different days of that week and the next.

It was quite a fascinating day language wise. The children are all fairly competent in English, but prattle along in French at different times during the day. I needed to tell them to stop and speak English, but I didn’t want to. I was keen to listen. They are good and help me when needed. Their English is not bad, but their sentence construction is rather poor and their tenses get lost somewhere out there. Several parents came to say hallo, all in French, but I coped and understood most of them. I am desperate to go home much more fluent than I am now. The mix of nationalities is amazing. Most of them have parents of two nationalities and many were born in different countries around the world. The little ones are sometimes hard to understand, but seem to understand my French if I have to talk to them.

School starts at 8.30 and finishes at 4.00pm. in all these hours I only manage to have 12 hours face to face teaching! There is supervision of kindergarten lunch, which is in the dinner room and is lunch they bring from home. Some have food which needs to be heated and it is an interesting time.

I have many, many hours off during the week and the school closes at 12.00pm on Wednesdays.

Hometime!!! Off I went and promptly got lost again. It doesn’t really make sense, but I think I have so much to think about such as staying on the correct side of the road, dodging other cars and almost falling in the ditch because some people want the whole road. I eventually arrived and gray was a bit staggered at the site of me. Think I must have looked pretty ghastly as the coffee appeared rather quickly.

I cooked dinner and listened to where Gray had been walking. He had had a one sided conversation with an old woman in the forest, but they managed to understand each other, somehow. I needed a glass of wine! Horror of horrors, no corkscrew! I tried to lever it out with some scissors and then to push it in. Last time I shall try that one! It went in quite easily with a whoosh and the ceiling, the walls, the floor and me were completely covered in red wine!!! Another laugh! We are doing well on the laugh scene. We got it all off the nice patterned white wall paper, even up the sloping roof which is hard to reach. The wine wasn’t even a particularly nice one.

We talked about where I had to go the next day and I worried all night because there was one stretch I couldn’t remember at all. I dreamed about it of course and thought I would never get used to the car or the driving on these roads. We bought a yellow road sign to put in the back of the car that was a diamond shape and it says” G’day” and has pictures of a kangaroo and a Harbour Bridge and the words, Sydney, Australia. It isn’t my choice of words, but I think this helps as people have been pretty good, staying back and not getting too close.