The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘strike’

“Striking” a good joke.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 13, 2013

This is France, so it will come as no surprise that France Inter (Papa’s favourite radio) have been on strike for the last few days. Conversation at the dinner table has therefore not been punctuated with the usual titbits introduced by “ils ont dit dans le poste” (they said in the radio). Instead, we were treated to THIS joke:

A man drives home after celebrating New Year’s Eve with his friends, and has had a couple too many drinks. So when he encounters a policeman on the side of the road who asks him to take an breathalyzer test:

-erm… I’d rather not.. If I give you ten euros, will you just forget it and let me go? I promise it won’t happen again.


-20 euros?

-OK then, but only because it’s the new year.

The man gives the agent 20 euros and drives along, only to find another policeman, 20 metres further along the road. Once more, the man refuses to submit to the breathalyzer test and offers a bribe:

-I’ll give you ten euros if you let me go



-Allright then.

He pays the bribe, drives another 20 metres, and once more, finds a policeman.

-Listen. I’ll guve you 20 euros, so please just let me drive on.

-No. You’ll have to give me a hundred.

-A hundred? What? Your colleagues only asked for 20!

-Yes, but if you give me a hundred, I’ll help you get off this roundabout.

Did I mention this was France?



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Carrot cake, the cure to political despair

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on October 26, 2010

Holidays, at last! – or so I feel I should be saying. Strangely enough, it feels like it has been no time at all since Uni started again back in September. It probably has something to do with this ongoing strike I have mentioned a couple of times already and which you have all probably heard of. In some subjects I’ve only had a couple of lessons over the past month and a half, and unfortunately those tend to be the subject where I am most behind (like Russian – a mix of strike, illness and the lecturer giving birth means I have been to about two lessons) . However, maybe this bout of strike will abate over the holidays. Strikes usually do, which is why our clever government times them so carefully. When people go on holiday, they don’t watch the news as much, they don’t go to work or university so they don’t get to discuss those sorts of issues with their co-workers and co-students. Also, during holidays, people don’t care as much, or at least they don’t want to care. Especially with the sort of weather we have been having lately. And the fuel shortage. And the general deflation of people’s spirit. People would rather stay at home gathering chestnuts and relaxing reading a book by the fireplace than use up their few remaining liters of fuel to go to wet marches in empty streets for something most people hardly believe in any more. It’s all a bit depressing.

Honestly, this new law adding a couple of working years is not that unreasonable. It is true that we live longer, but it is also true that we have to study longer also. Take me for example, I agree that my life may be longer than previous generations’. But my studies won’t be over for another three years if everything goes to plan. I’l be 26, and I’ll still have 42, maybe 43 years to work, so that takes me all the way to 68-69 years old by the time I can claim a full pension. If I work these 42 years throughout, without breaks or sabbatical. It seems an awfully long time. But who knows, maybe by that point they will have figured out a way to make us live forever. Oh my God, an eternity of working all the time. Not an appealing prospect.

But whatever happens, whatever our government turns up with -and I think I have said it before, no-one will be completely happy about it. And if nothing happens, no-one will be happy either. So the protests in France are just the expression of general unhappiness. I’m somewhat surprised that other countries haven’t done it before us; we are far from being the unhappiest nation on the face of the earth, but then again, there is that expression that striking is the french national pass time. And in the meantime, I simply cannot figure out what I should hope for: for it to calm down, or for people to stick to their principles. And what would both of these options imply about the French. Do we want to give up, or are we just acting like a petulant child. In any case, these holidays will be a trial for this grève movement. Students are trying to keep things up. I saw an interview of a marching schoolgirl on telly the other day. She didn’t stay on for long enough for me to see whether she knew anymore than I do about the situation, but she mentioned facebook and text messages as a way to keep things going.  If facebook can help organise flash mobs to sing Do-a-deer-a-female-deer in a railway station, why can’t it be used to keep a protest going. Now only remains to see how many pupils and students went on strike only to skive off lessons, how many really are convinced by the slogans they write on their banners, and how many are fed up.

Now let me move on to something cheerier: CARROT CAKE. yum.

I am not being a traitor to the striking movement, I just believe in comfort food and cooking. Besides, we  live on an isolated farm in the Auvergne, fuel is scarce, and I have no driving licence anyway. So CAKE. Carrot cake. My own recipe. Well almost. It’s a variation around Jamie Oliver’s carrot cake, which I believe can be found out there somewhere on the internet, but adapted to fit my tastes, and hopefully those of my family. I still haven’t baked this in France for them, and I hope it isn’t to spicy for them. But come on: carrot cake, what can possibly go wrong. Every time I make it, it reminds me of our holidays in Ireland when we were small. Every second year or so, we’d go up to Ireland, the emerald Isle, the land where the Shamrock grows et, etc… and have a great time. We would spend the days outside on the edges of cliffs, chasing sheep and standing stones, visiting breweries, going fishing, riding ponies, eating in pubs, chancing upon sessions led by three bearded Irishmen drinking pints of lemonade, sniffing out which houses had peat burning in their fireplace… And we would regularly buy soda bread and carrot cake.

Carrot cake is so lovely and moist and flavoursome. It has such a characteristic taste and, in Ireland, it comes complete with a thick layer of very sweet and tangy icing, the recipe of which I simply cannot find. Can anyone help me with that? My little sister has been asking for it, and I miss it. Haven’t been to Ireland in ages!Anyway, in the meantime, here is my recipe, I’ll post a picture of the final result later on:

250g unsalted butter;   250g soft light brown sugar (I sometimes make that half-and-half sugar and golden syrup to make it moister);   5 large eggs, separated;   zest+juice of one orange;   170g self-raising flour;   1 heaped tbsp baking powder;   100g ground almonds;   100g shelled walnuts, broken;   1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon;   pinch ground cloves;   pinch ground nutmeg;   1 heaped tbsp ground ginger;   250g carrots, peeled and grated.

1: Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC

2: Cream the butter and sugar in a big bowl until pale and fluffy. Stir in the egg yolks one by one and the orange zest and juice, gradually. I say gradually, and I mean it. Otherwise you’ll end up with lumps of fat and sugar swimming in a sea of yellow liquid. Not very appetizing.

3: Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the almonds and walnuts, spices and carrots. You’re more than welcome to add more spices depending on how you like your carrot cake. I like it quite spicy and tangy, so this time I might add some lemon rind. I’ll see.

4: In a separate bowl, beat the eggs whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then fold very carefully into the cake mixture.

5: Pour into a prepared baking tin and bake for at least 50 minutes. If the top of the cake becomes too brown, cover with tin foil and place in the oven. As with most cakes, you can test the cake by stabbing it with a knife, when the blade comes out clean your cake is ready.

Please let me know if you know a good carrot cake icing recipe!

Posted in Food, France, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

France, or how I had to climb over a table and two chairs to get into Uni today.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on October 21, 2010

Well yesterday I didn’t write for lack of time and inspiration, but wow! How things have changed! Where shall I start? there was training yesterday night, which was hilarious, then I got a phone call to tell me people were coming to lay new floorboards in my bedroom (major excitement), but then I got into university this morning, and.. well… didn’t. In an unexpected move students have blockaded the University. It’s actually quite an achievement. The languages department is always quite a challenge for the instigators of such actions, because of its many, many doors. A bit of quick maths tells me there must be at least 20 different points of entry. All of which were today blocked/barred. There is a double barricade around every access. On the outside, every door is lined with bin containers and rubbish bags, and on the inside rows and piles of tables and chairs to stop anyone who somehow might have succeeded in climbing over the bins, opening the door and wrestling past a small army of demonstrators armed with the latest of leaflets (lethal).

That was the task I set myself as soon as I arrived. Not because I am a traitor to everything these people hold dear. I am not particularly fond of the idea of working until I’m wrinkled and old and have to crawl into an office with my deambulator every day. It just so happened that I have an exam today. Talk about bad timing! So I found a door guarded by more accommodating students and they let me through but not before I had proved to them I really really REALLY had an exam today. Eventually I managed to get in, heavily laden with prospecti and leaflets from all sorts of syndicates. Just so you know, there is an open meeting this afternoon and another one next Wednesday with a banner-making workshop to prepare for the next march. Yes, it would seem this season’s strikes aren’t over yet.

So here I am. In. And waiting to find out if my exam is actually going to happen. There is still an hour left before it starts and I wonder how many students will go to the trouble of finding which door has sensible people watching it, and bother asking them to let them in. Few, probably. Who knows, the teacher might not even turn up with the papers; after all, she is a very convinced militant and goes on strike every time an opportunity to do so turns up. A couple of years ago, because she wanted to make a point (and french grévistes are very good at doing just that), we ended up having linguistics lessons out in the park. Many lecturers were doing that actually, so people wandering in the park had a choice of philosophy, applied mathematics, german  linguistics, french literature… Unfortunately not a viable option today: ambient temperature: about 3ºC.

Never mind. At least I’m inside, I have an internet connection, a chair (some compassionate teacher decided the floor tiles were just too cold to sit on for two hours) and a sandwich. I can survive for a while yet. I also have a copy of today’s newspaper which demonstrators are giving out for free, and my horoscope tells me I will “have difficulties working today”. Go figure.

Quick update: someone just told me the dean had decided to cancel all exams today. And judging by the noise outside, someone has decided to get an impromptu march going

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France is on strike. Yes. Again.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on October 19, 2010

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday, obviously my strong firm resolutions were not as strong and firm as all that. To sum the day up  quickly, I managed to come down to Clermont despite a train strike and no fuel being available in the region (or maybe the counry – this lack of oil does mean people travel a lot less these days), then I went to my one lesson (studying german has got its advantages), went food-shopping for the week, had a nap which swallowed up my entire afternoon and went to training. Training was hell by the way. It was just one of those days where I could not get anything right. And when I say not anything, I mean there wasn’t one exercice I did well. Even the teacher was starting to lose his patience, and he has probably seen his share of whingeing pains in the backside. He would keep on explaining, but it was no use. The sports I do by the way are Shito-Ryu Karate and Nihon Tai Jitsu (which can be dumbly translated as Japanese body technique, or Self-defence)and the theme of yesterday’s lesson was  ushiro-geri, a kind of backwards kick. I am just a beginner in both disciplines, having started karate 1 and a half years ago, and Self-defence only half that amount of time. As things are, I am still the only girl in the advanced group, although on occasions such as yesterday, everyone wonders what I’m doing there. Never mind, I enjoy it most of the time and I’ll try to get to the open training session tonight if public transports are running again (combat, yay!). I’ll probably devote a proper article to karate and stuff later on, but I mentioned strike in my title, so I had probably better mention it a bit.

So yes. The french are practicing their national sport: going on strike. As I write this it is 10:00 am in France and everywhere in the country where there are enough people and streets marches and demos are setting themselves into motion. Everywhere else is devoid of human life: they are all in town, marching in the street, blocking the roads and schools and post offices and trains and oil supplies. Everyone born in October will get late birthday cards this year and although that is probably the least of their problems right now, I sympathise.

For those of you who happen not to be in France at the moment, this current wave of striking ( I say wave, but I should say tide because it does just come and go on a regular basis) is because of new laws on retirement which our government wans to put into place where you have to work for aaages and ages and ages and get less money at the end of it. There also something where if you can’t or won’t work the 41 years that you’re supposed to work, you receive less than the money you have contributed… it’s all very complicated. And it all comes after three years of having Nicolas Sarkozy at the head of the french state and seeing the country going ever further down a steady slope (with a big gaping pit at the bottom of it.

When Sarkozy got into office, he promised two things:

  1. Transparence: which he used as an excuse to sprawl his private life all over french and international tabloids. As  .  if  .  we  .  cared.
  2. “Réformes”: he was going to change things, and he has. Every two months or less they come up with a new réforme, a new law. Usually the aim of these is to destroy the welfare state, make poor people give rich people more money and help them keep it, and generally piss off all working people in France. Up until now, the only people in the streets at any one time were the specific victim of one new law or other, with a couple of supporters from other sectors thrown in. But now, by changing laws about retirement he has managed to anger everyone at the same time.

There are so  many things wrong with the system and the way it is run at the moment I am getting all messed up. I would like to tell you about each one of the new laws is actually written during times such as summer holidays so that when people find out fter their vacation it’s already too late, or how it’s true that things have to change one way or other, and how the situation has degraded so badly now whatever solution is offered will cause more damage to some section of society or the other. Basically we are neck deep in shit and whatever turn events take, it will take us a very long time to crawl out.

On this happy note: Happy Birthday Mam! (Don’t worry, I’ll give you your birthday card in person; it won’t get lost in the mail)


PS: the reason this entry took so long to be posted was that half way through someone started the fire alarm (probably to try and convince unmotivated students to give up on lessons and take to the streets) and I had to evacuate and close the library.

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