There are some songs that remind you of a time or a place. This is one of them – Stromae is a Rwandan-Belgian dance act who was massive in France whilst I was there. This song was on pretty much every time I queued at the K-fet for my poulet-salade. I’ve never heard it since. Nostalgia eh?

There are a few things on the to-do list still left over from France – I’ve not got the deposit back from the flat, and I’ve not managed to get a refund on the rental insurance (because I need a document from the landlord that says that the contract has been properly terminated and I think that’ll come when the deposit does). I’ve not yet closed my French bank account, either, for the reasons outlined above. When I was living in Grenoble I’d send emails in French all the time, but for some reason now I’m back I find it really hard to get motivatedRead More →

Now I’m back in the UK, I thought I’d do a quick write up off things I wish I’d known upon arrival in Grenoble, just in case anyone else finds it useful. So here goes: France is rubbish on Sundays. The only places that open properly are bakeries and florists. Supermarkets and shopping centres generally don’t open. But there are a handful of smaller supermarkets which are exceptions to this rule – Simply Market (one on Boulevard Maréchal Foch near where it crosses the train tracks, one on Avenue Jean Perrot up by Malherbe) and Monoprix (in town by Hubert Duberdout tram stop) open inRead More →

My current parallel text is “L’homme à l’enverse“, a Fred Vargas novel translated into english with the title “Seeking whom he may devour“. I guess the title translation should have tipped me off to the fact that this was likely to be a clunky read. There’s one translation detail that’s really beginning to wind me up though, and that’s the name of the dog. The old shepherd, called “Le Veillard” in the french and “Watchee” in the English, has a faithful sheepdog. This dog, in the french, is called “Interlock“. When asked about the name by the protagonist, Camille, the shepherd explains that this isRead More →

In an effort to improve my French, I’ve been reading a few of my favourite books in translation alongside the original. It saves me from having to pick up a dictionary every time I come across a word I don’t know, and it also encourages me to try and work out what words mean myself (it’s a bit of a pain stopping and starting and switching between languages, so I try to do a paragraph or a page at a time). I’ve just finished L’appel des morts, by Ian Rankin (also known as “The Naming of the Dead”; one of my favourite Rebus novels). ThisRead More →

Back in June, when I was getting started in France, one of my major headaches was the form-filling. The French excel at bureaucracy – the number of times I’ve had to show my birth certificate/marriage certificate/degrees/passport is just amazing for me as a brit. Why do the bank need to see my wedding cert? Why do the uni need to see all my qualifications, three times? But the real problem for me is the proliferation of impossible questions. The first question on the form I had to fill in to get a social security number asked for my numéro INSEE, and after asking about fourRead More →

I’ve been getting quite into the rugby lately. It’s the wrong kind of rugby, obviously, and the whole “line up and throw the ball in” thing still confuses me a bit, but it’s good fun to watch down the pub and there’s a good chance that France might win the tournament. I got chatting to a woman during the France v. Ireland match who mentioned that there was going to be a live match between the Italian and French under-20s teams in Grenoble, and that it was free for women (!), so of course I said yes when she offered to get me a ticket.Read More →