Sounds like a good band title to me, eh? Wenlock here again (yes, I know it's me) in a once-again altered style. Gone, although not forever, are the "and so's" which used to be the opening gambit in the attempt to enrapture. Nor are the Keele-ites gone, nor any of the other -ites (you see?) in their many and varied tents, yea even unto the great festival of East-er.
Life here in Bordeaux seems pretty harum-scarum still, despite the cooling of the strike actions and so forth. One piece of good news is that I shall now be returning, come hell or high water, for good on May 17th. To quote the passport, I shall pass (being the bearer) "freely without let or hindrance" from the Republic of France. Inbetween I shall be coming back in four days' time (18th April) for nine days and then go back to France again.
There isn't really a great deal to tell of my life. I went home in February and spent a happy time at Keele and with my family. Sadly I missed out on some birthday celebrations in early March, but that couldn't be helped. I have sinced in France engaged in visits to Limoges and to Paris, both being excellent. I shall miss arranging trips and things, but Keele ever beckons on the horizon.
I freely admit the old homesickness is coming back and I long for the day when I can pack up my bags for good and leave France behind until I next deign to take a holiday here. I have enjoyed my time here, though (although not at the beginning, as one entry here fully shows). I will miss the walk to the tram stop and going to lunch and all the little aspects of my life here to which I honestly do look forward. There shall be no worry over currency exchanges, no long treks into town for alcohol and good company (our local place lacking in the latter).
No, I fully admit I shall be sad to leave France and as equally glad to return to England as ever I could be, that distant day in May. There really is little to more to say on the subject (am I becoming Dickens now?) and I shall leave my reader with my usual farewell greetings, until next time.
"At the start of the news day, the fires begin" -- so the first line from Keane's Playing Along goes. Well I think there have been several fires over the past few days and right large ones at that. I've posted some stories up over the past few days which have caught my interest and I hope the interest of my friends. I am reminded, in writing this, of the ficticious American journalist Wenlock Jakes in Evelyn Waugh's excellent book Scoop!, holed up in his room while the faux disaster of the Ishmaelite War raged on miles away. Only now, however, are the disasters coming ever-closer.
I shall begin on Thursday when I was forwarded a link to a columnist in The Guardian. Henry Porter is the name of the journo and in his column he discusses the government's "eroding of the protection afforded to people in their own homes". In the Courts and Tribunal Enforcement Act 2007, a 400-year-old law which gave rise to the phrase "an Englishman's home is his castle" has now been overturned. Under the CTEA, bailiffs will be permitted to enter homes and retrieve goods pertaining to the value of fines owed. An emblem of British civilisation, one of our last bastions, has now been swept away (hopefully only temporarily). One wonders where it will all end (presumably in the reinstitution of debtors' prisons). Porter is right in stating that the current shower squatting in the Westminster village are no respecters of history or tradition. So long as the law is obeyed then the frail, elderly and generally vulnerable can go hang. It is characteristic that such legislation is fuzzy, meaning that nobody knows exactly at what point the bailiffs will be sent in to barge down the door and begin their indiscriminate lootings. This has so far claimed one victim, pub owner Andy Miller, who was driven to cashpoint by a bailiff to settle a fine and a little time afterrwards died of a heart attack. And the Ministry of (in)Justice has been very forthcoming with the information on the subject of point of entry -- providing first 30, then 15 pages of blacked-out information on the details to one freedom of information campaigner. Of course, the reason for the withholding of information is perfectly reasonably -- the health and safety of the bailiffs.
So what to do? I say we all apply for licenses to crenellate, moat our driveways and invest in portcullises. Who's to say an Englishman's home wouldn't be his castle then? Health and safety risks? I'd say so -- don't forget, that in this current climate of claim action after claim action nobody is prepared to even blink without first completing a full risk assessment.
Thursday also saw a one-day strike by many state employees and transport workers in France. Nothing new there I hear you cry -- but yes there is. It is now being claimed (or at least it was in that day's Times) that Sarko is going to have to be a lot nicer to people on the left of politics over here. A friend of mine reported on his Facebook status the other day that in his wanderings round Paris, he'd seen an anarchist protest. There are reports that M. Sarkozy is going to have to fight hard to regain the ground he gained on the left during the 2007 election campaign. Clearly his right-wing rhetoric is going to have to be altered greatly if he wishes to remain in power for the rest of his tenure or even wishes to be re-elected.
I personally am not worried, this is an interesting thing to watch. Apparently the disputes are more wide-ranging than mere muscle-flexing. Ah well, so long as the wine keeps flowing and the Euro doesn't sink too badly again, I'm quite happy to play the observer.
I will now turn to yesterday and a column in The Times written by Janice Turner. It concerns our own domestic strikers in Britain at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire. I like Turner's phrase on the British public's attitude to the economic situation, we have "treated it like a bad turn in the weather". However, some are now fed up and ready to imitate the French and the Icelandic and actually voice their disappointment and outrage. Two rather strong emotions and they stem from the recent awarding of a contract by French oil giant Total to an Italian firm, IREM, to begin extension work on the Lindsey facility. Nothing wrong so far, until you hear that the workers to be used will in fact be Italian and Portuguese specialists. Turner quotes that 47% of Humberside are now unemployed and a quarter of the same people are living in poverty. We hear that the reason why IREM are using workers from the continent is because they'll work for less, it's too expensive to employ British workers. So? Employ them anyway -- Lindsey makes money for Total and the protesters are the ones who ensure it does. Of course this has now become national, by tomorrow maybe fourteen energy plants and oil refineries up and down the UK will each have a workforce out on strike. None of the big parties support the strikers, but the protesters, and now the Tories, at least have made Brown's ludicrous cry of "British Jobs for British Workers" seem exactly that. Total are guilty of naked profiteering and may cause a national power crisis. Meanwhile the BNP (Turner says this herself) will go round with the recruitment gangs and hey presto another potential constituency.
In my view Total should ensure that IREM's quota of 300 workers are made up of 100 British workers. It's only fair after all, the power plant is in Britain and will be used by the British people, not by the Portuguese and Italians, who will go back home to their countries where sunshine comes in abundance and there appears to be little need for central heating. There are those who will whine and say that we must be a more inclusive economy now that we are a more global society. I say that in times like this we must first look to put our own houses in order if we are to then help our neighbours (should we feel the obligation, Brussels). Include the foreigners out.
Now we can turn to today and the news that, in respect of yesterday's story, the Prime Minister does not back the strikers and nor do the Tories. I suppose that's right in a way, these are wildcat strikes, but I wonder at what cost both parties are prepared to ignore the crisis. There can't be a COBRA meeting, Brown's in Davos in the Swiss Alps trying to thrash out a global solution to the credit crisis. I did like what he told the BBC, though "no government in history is doing more to try and find ways that we can help people who are unemployed back into work as quickly as possible". And what are these measures, precisely? When will they be brought in? If it weren't tragic it'd almost be funny the way he carries on. Let's face it, Britain needs help but the man to give it is not the man who made the mess in the first place. I also liked Mandy's soundbite, "It'd be great if other countries want to employ skilled British craftsmen and women". And which other countries would these be, exactly, Lord Peter? Would France take a Brit over a Frenchman first? No. Would the Germans, Italians or Spanish? No. And their situations could be as precarious as our own. The fact is that the EU member states know full well that certain companies with international operations, such as Airbus, will have to exchange nationals as employees, but that's about it. Do we blame them? Probably not. Thankfully, perennial voice of reason, Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, has once again spoken (I'm amazed Brown hasn't had him killed). He said, "This form of contract clearly cannot go on -- where contracts are awarded and there's free movement of companies but those companies then restrict who can apply for those jobs. That clearly has got to change and tomorrow I hope he'll make an announcement, saying that if that is the law, then the law in the European Union is actually going to be changed".
I would certainly hope that something is done, but I know it won't be. Brown went in to sign the Lisbon Treaty back in 2007 without a murmr and got it through Parliament. This is where British subservience to the EU has got to stop. We must stand up once in a while and say "no" in a loud and clear voice. Maggie would never have stood for this, this is about protecting British interests at a time when it is very critical to do so. We have a duty first and foremost to ourselves, not to Brussels. I'm sure where the safeguards on British interests lie at the moment, but I'll place strong bets on their being at Lindsey, Grangemouth and Aberthaw and not either in Whitehall, Westminster or Brussels.
And so did many among the E-ras-mus-ites (that is to say "The Sons and Daughters of Eu-rope) did take themselves unto an great hall, verily even at the first light of dawn. There they were examined and did come away feeling much pleased.
Yes, folks, exam season hit a little earlier this year. Not to worry, I rather enjoyed myself. Especially in the French exam, which was all about politics, I couldn't have wished for better questions and I wrote a hell of a load too. We're in the winding down stages now, just got another week to go before I go to Paris and then on homewards for three weeks!
I need to go Christmas shopping badly. Only got a few more days (left it 'til the last minute again. Great eejit). Oh well, I'll enjoy it. I always do, gets me right excited and of course the presents are coming from further away than Stoke-on-Trent. I have a full Christmas playlist as well, so all is good =]
That's pretty much it. I'll be sad to see some of our internationals leaving, we've formed a nice little group. Oh well, there's plenty of time for visits and all that. So we have things sorted and in hand. A plus!
And so did some among the exiled Keele-ites conspire to take themselves up from their various tents in the country of Fra-nce or "Land of WIne and Cheese" unto the great city of the French-ites at Par-is and there make merry for an weekend or so.
Woop!! Sorry, folks, but it's December. Paris next week, home this time in a fortnight -- Christmas is only 3 weeks away!!! I love this time of year, it's wonderful. It's been a varied and interesting year and there wouldn't be much I'd change about it. This is only short, but I thought it worthy to be mentioned.
And so did an Keele-ite gird up his loins and take himself out of the great city of Bor-deaux first unto Man-chester for he did fly. Then by road unto Lit-tle Sut-ton, where he was greeted warmly as an prodigal son. Finally did he take himself unto Staff-ord-shire and there among the Keele-ites whom he did love dearly and among whom he was also greeted as an prodigal son. There did he drink, dance, make merry and do other things.
Yes, folks, I went back to Keele as promised. However I didn't stay long in England and am now back in France on a new course, in a new room and equipped with a new camera. I realised the error of my ways and have therefore decided to give Bordeaux another try. So here we are.
Now, first, to my visit to England. I arrived late at Manchester thanks to various and indeed silly technical difficulties at Bordeaux involving ailerons and paperwork. Two hours late, I could have wept. Still, I spent the weekend at home and on the Monday as promised made my way speedily towards Keele. I spent three glorious days there, catching up with all the old crowds and meeting a bunch of new people. Contacts for next year at the very least. There were regrettable omissions, but I intend to make up for that between now and June.
Then back home to go watch shopping for my birthday. Ah, my 21st. The highlight of the whole trip home. I have never spent a better evening than that of Saturday 1st November. A French-themed meal among friends and family, it was truly wonderful. Didn't get home until early on the Sunday morning when I then decided at half 9 I would go to church. Don't ask, I don't know myself. Plans were also being made for me to return to Bordeaux.
The journey back was varied, long and riddled with small disasters. Such as when my bag came apart at Euston while I was forking out £4 for a single ticket from Euston to King's Cross/St.Pancras. It was after it came apart from being fixed I knew there and then my day was put out completely. Which it was because I missed my connection to Paris and had to fork out for a whole new set of tickets. That said, St. Pancras is a fabulous station, very like an airport. And the Eurostar itself one cannot fault for comfort. Only thing was that we took ages getting through the tunnel because of the damn fire. Then I got to Paris and saw that I wasn't going to make my connection to Bordeaux because of the traffic. However I got to the Gare Montparnasse and found a train to Bordeaux waiting. The TGV is as comfortable as the Eurostar -- Virgin need to sit up and take notice of the French train system. We need wider rail gauges in England.
So now to the past week, which I spent in and out of hotels owing to my not having a room. I got one last Wednesday and have been furnishing it ever since. Two friends from Keele who are at Limoges came down to see Ian and I this weekend, which is when I bought the new camera and I haven't left it alone. So here I am, the flight home for Christmas is booked and we Keele people who are in France are looking forward to a trip to Paris.
Such has been the past month. Now to the rest of the four weeks I have left before Christmas and the dreaded exams afterward. Oh well, I have whisky and wine, what do I care?
And so did an Keele-ite take unto his head that he was not content with being in exile in the land of Fran-ce (that is to say, That Land Whence Floweth the Wine) . So he did wail and gnash his teeth until his cries were heard and he was decreed to become an prodigal son and return home to Eng-land and his village of Lit-tle Su-tton. He did also express an desire to go and be received joyously among the Keele-ites, which they did accept.
Yes, folks, France hasn't changed much, so I'm coming home. I've had enough, I don't like it here as I mentioned last time. There isn't much to be said on the subject. I shall be sorry to leave my international friends (I haven't the heart to tell them yet) but such is life. I fear I shall go insane if I stay here a moment longer than neccessary.
I'll be home on the 24th and in Keele by the 27th for a 3-day visit. Hurrah, hurrah!
I've decided enough is enough. I've glossed over it, painted it like a whore and even downright lied about it, well not any more. I am going to reveal to you the full extent of my unhappiness here in Bordeaux and why doing French was a silly idea.
I was excited about it at first, got my hopes up a little too high in terms of expecting amenities to enable comfortable living. I discovered a barely serviceable kitchen and completely filthy dirty room. The walls are stained and the coverings (yes, plural, for one wall has avocado wallpaper on it) are peeling. There is dust all over the grey-ish lino floor and no bedding was provided. Culture shock, more like un-cultured horrors. I can speak none of the language which makes any attempt to complain impossible. Any complaints are met with hostility by our management.
I feel very isolated here among the African and Maghreb communities. I don't want to disturb our American friends, who clearly have lots of work to do now and my other English-speaking associates tend to just leave me alone. Today to my disgust I found what I can only assume was a leak in the toilet. And people put up with this.
I now fully regret doing French, for it catapaulted me here into this dump. I don't want to complain to home anymore, they'll all just tell me to get on with it. Well they can get on with the two breakdowns I've had since I've got here. I don't want to stay here anymore, all I want to do is come home and do something simple. There are plenty of things to which I could turn my hand back home.
It's only on here I can really make my feelings known. I don't want to burden home with it, it'll make things worse. I don't want to bring down my English-speaking friends, they're enjoying it. I can't speak French well, so there's no point there. Anyone left on this who will read it, please do feel free. And see what it's like. I'm half-tempted to get a Facebook group up to petition for my return home.
Oh well, whinge and rant over. Back to it, keep grinding away and all. Musn't upset people, musn't let them see there's anything wrong, it makes them feel worse.
And so did some Keele-ites from one tribe known as To-ries take unto a tent outside the u-ni for to elect themselvs a new leader. The Keele-ites from other tribes earlier in the month did contrive to elect unto themselves yet another leader, this time being a female.
Yes, folks, I am once again back and back I hope for good. I have been nagged, pressured and persuaded to once again write in my LiveJournal. Not a lot has happened to me really, apart from being elected Chairman of NKCF for which I am grateful to the society. I am now in the process of finalising my year abroad and it is as expected, I am going to Bordeaux in September yay!!!!
Easter holidays start tomorrow (well for me anyway) and this makes me smile. Four weeks of nothing but minimal work, a job and Series 5 of The West Wing. What could be better?
Until next time, audience.
And so it was that an wandering Keele-ite did return unto what had previously been abandoned by him. He looked upon it and said "I have been neglectful. But now I am returned once again unto you all".
I'm back, folks. Watch this space for there is much to come and it will be fantastic when it arrives. You haven't been forgotten, just a little mislaid. Fear not, for LiveJournal is in my life again.
And so it was among the Keele-ites that life continued at Keele. Lectures were attended, the Holy Spirit of Al-co-hol consumed in great quantity all so that the Keele-ites could revel and be merry.
Nothing much of significance to report ladies and gents. I am now a member of SRC and so edging slowly towards the trappings of power. Yeah, right. I'm happy as I am eking out my existence here on the hill and living out my days in the usual quietly desparate way.
One monumental piece of news is that I am now to go on the radio. Yes, folks, that's right I'm going out live and loud to all who care to listen. The group has been created on Facebook and titled after the show, That Hickey Report and the event is now up and guests invited to listen to the first broadcast. Muchos fun to be had.
I am also in something of a romantic interlude although whether or not it will become fully-fledged remains to be seen. But going home with someone after going to The Club and then spending hours with them and not returning back home until 6 I think shows great promise. Watch ye unto this space.
I have little else to report. I'm making my second trip home this month but for entirely better reasons. CF meeting on Friday night and SRC next week. I think I'm leading what Stephen Fry in the film Wilde called "a charmed life". Work seems to get done, I have my radio show and all is apparently well with the world.
Until such time as I next write here, audience. Adieu.