There is a date on everyone’s lips in France at the moment: 11th May. No-one knows what it will bring: like the rules of English grammar, the guidelines delivered by the government have revealed as many exceptions as there are rules and so we wait in anticipation to see if we are a red zone, a green zone, whether we can see family if they live 103 kms away  and are elderly but not old … (nuance), whether we can see our gym coach outside but not inside the gym, whether we understand why one of our children can go back to school and one can stay at home….

But kudos to the government. In spite of numerous criticisms, none of us would have liked to make the decisions potentially governing the life and death of French citizens given the circumstances and the constantly changing data.

For now, the date remains shrouded in mystery and for some, trepidation. Personally, on the one hand, there are some things that I really look forward to … some more superficial than others. Of course, I can’t wait to re-establish face to face links with all the people I see on a weekly basis, whether they be my lovely students or groups of dear friends (very often they are both). I cannot wait for that nonchalance about time. I realise now that even if I am always running from place to place, I am always free to choose when, and I see that clearly as a luxury now. I look forward to the anticipation of planning a holiday with my family, be it near or far. Anticipation is such a precious thing. Uncertainty is so destabilizing….

And on a very very superficial note …. I really can’t wait to put my trainers at the back of a cupboard and put on some high heels. God, I’ve missed them!

But there are so many things that I have enjoyed during my cocooning period that I don’t want to lose them. I have never spent so much time with family, and it has been wonderful to spend so much time with my daughters of 18 and 17 who certainly will move on to higher education in a few short years. It has been a blessing to have this time together. The confinement was also the instigator of a WhatsApp group with my parents, brother and sister and it has been incredibly novel and touching to have that exchange so regularly. Thank you for that, confinement period!

It will have been a time of introspection and self-discovery no doubt and I hope that all of us will come out of this slowly, wisely, and having learnt a precious lesson about who we are what we need and don’t need in life. There is a chance that this is not the end of the confinement period, but instead of taking that negatively, I hope we it will help us remember to be aware of how we spend our precious time.       

By Amy


First and foremost, I can’t wait to get back together with my partner who has been stranded in Sardinia since before the lockdown began. I want the warmth of human interchange, and tactile comfort.

I’m looking forward to the very limited freedom we’ll have in Italy – to walk in the streets, to visit the extended family, and in a couple of weeks’ time, to go to the sea.

I’m worried about the economic chaos we’re likely to find once we peek out into the ‘real’ world, but at the same time I’m hopeful of seeing the same concentration of mind we’ve witnessed since the lockdown began: the creative appreciation of small things and the desire on the part of ordinary people to make this a turning point in how we live our lives. Fearful of shoddy solutions to systemic problems and the all-too-easy power-grab of the greedy at the expense of the honest and simple, I nevertheless look forward to our strong and determined refusal to accept the same old lies from those who govern.

But more than all that, I’m looking forward to rediscovering the sense of time: after eight weeks of isolation, I feel lost in a bubble, floating precariously in the air where minutes slip into hours and hours days until a month and then two have slipped past and nothing has changed. The days are long, but the weeks short. I crave a sense of urgency, the hard, rough edges of challenge, as if the threat of deadlines were the real source of freedom and the stressors of working life the key to action.

I look forward to waking up after a long sleep filled with bad dreams.

By Nick


The deconfinement countdown has begun! Only a few more days to go now and I think most people are ready for it to be over. The clapping at 8 o’clock in my neighbourhood has become a little less enthusiastic, friends’ hair and beards have turned into long unmanageable dreadlocks and the blanket forts are just tripping hazards now.

However, I think the reality hasn’t hit me yet.

I’ve become accustomed to quarantine life. I sing along to the parodies on YouTube, I’ve made new friends with my daughter’s Playmobile characters, and I’ve enjoyed wearing pyjama bottoms for meetings (I still make an effort on my top half). Most importantly, I feel like I have reconnected with my daughter. Yes, she has made working from home difficult but watching her learn or when she mimicks my English expressions, my heart bursts and I feel so proud. A similar feeling to when I see my students succeed!

So, what am I looking forward to? I have been lucky that I haven’t had to struggle through this pandemic, as so many have, so I’m simply looking forward to meeting people again. I miss my family, friends and students. The computer screen is no comparison to seeing someone in person, talking face to face, no delay, no bad connection, no echo.

I also look forward to the day in the future when I can sit my grandchildren down and proudly tell them the story of how we lived through the Great Toilet Paper Shortage…I mean Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020.

By Katie


As a little bit of an introvert, I’ve always asked myself if I had a limit to staying isolated from the world. Well, with Mother Nature finally having enough and sending us all to our rooms for being bad humans, I finally have my answer. Yes, I do have a limit.
Nine days into the confinement, I realised that I missed walking further than a kilometre from my house; the freedom of going shopping without a permission slip and sneezing in public without people running for their pitchforks!
Yet, it has given me the time to reflect. Thankfully, living in a world of Skype and Whatsapp, we’re not cut off entirely. Ironically, the quarantine has brought us closer together. I have managed to keep a lot of my lessons going which have kept me anchored to reality. I have also been speaking more frequently with friends and family and I have spent more quality moments with my husband and four year old daughter. Every night we stand on the balcony to applaud the hard working nurses, and doctors and are reminded that we’re not alone.

The next question I ask myself is this: When the quarantine is lifted and we step out into the blinding sunshine, breathing in the unpolluted air, will we all be a little more considerate towards each other? I hope so. One thing is for sure, I will never look at a packet of toilet roll the same way, ever again.

Skills gained: I can make a fort out of almost anything, I know all the lyrics to Frozen’s « into the unknown »!



Lockdown thoughts

As many of you know, I’m an early bird, so my day starts at 6 o’clock. I make coffee and look at my emails before ruthlessly scanning all the news-sites to find interesting texts for my students. The biggest change to my routine at this point is that every single article on every single website is about the coronavirus, and not one of them has a ‘fun’ angle. It seems that fun has disappeared.

I then go about sanitising my living environment, needlessly wiping down surfaces in the vain belief that I’m keeping infection away from a place that nobody has visited in more than three weeks. However, as I feed my six cats at the same time, any idea that I might have a clean home disappears.

After my morning ablutions, I begin my telephone lessons, and the interaction with sharp, intelligent people energises me: together we analyse problems, find solutions and believe that when the pandemic ends, we’ll build a better society.

And that is the real positive of this strange and disturbing time: we’re all beginning to think differently about what is important in our lives, because we have to concentrate on essentials. After the love and support for our families and friends, perhaps the most essential thing is the time we have been given to reflect on the kind of society we want.

I am lucky to live in the countryside, and I spend my free time caring for my garden and watching the cycles of nature: the sudden slowdown in our lives has seen a dramatic resurgence in natural energy; in my own garden, the birds, butterflies and lizards are multiplying; further afield, wild animals are venturing into our deserted cities, and the waters of Venice are running clear and full of fish. Over the locked-down areas of Europe, pollution has dropped by 40%. In just two weeks, nature has bloomed, as if the planet were saying a great ‘Thank you’ to the all-polluting human race for taking a time-out.

I’m spending my time now wondering how we can translate this forced change in our behaviour into lasting change. Do we, together, have the power to overcome the inevitable economic crisis that will follow the pandemic, and fight together for a new world, stripped of the excesses of consumption and greed?

I am afraid that I am indulging in magic thinking, and that once things get back to the old normal, we will quickly forget. But I would like to believe that, united, our energy, intelligence and desire for something better may lead to lasting change.

 By Nick


For many years ELC has been working with the legal profession: both with such prestigious law firms as Capstan, la  SAJE, PINT, Lex Phocéa, Favarel & Associés and more …. , and at the Maison de l’Avocat where we train groups of lawyers, paralegals and expert witnesses to battle it out in court in English à la “Ally McBeal”.

Hence, we have always been intrigued by the law and have a deep sense of justice so when we heard that there had been a heinous murder no further than on our precious Vieux Port in Marseille, we were appalled!

No sooner had we heard than we donned our Sherlock Holmes hats and made our way to the centre of activity and logged onto the application CluedUpp where we discovered the details of the crime!

From there we were transported back in time to 1919 and the era of the “Sneaky Finders” and learnt that one of the gang leaders had been stabbed to death, possibly with witnesses. Our job was then to catch up with the dodgy characters around the Canebière and the Vieux Port (of which there seemed to be no shortage, funnily enough) and interrogate them to see what they knew about the day’s events. So exciting!

For the next three hours, your ELC sleuths could be seen skirting the bars and stalking the avenues of the town centre, smartphones in our hands, ready to track down witnesses, eliminate suspects and finally put the cuffs on the culprit and did we do it ….?

No! We were truly and completely useless, which just proves that we are better suited to a profession of teaching the complexities of the diphthong and the present perfect rather than hunting down killers on the place Charles de Gaulle. Although we did have a nice hot chocolate in the Samaritan when things got too tough.   

But would we recommend the game? Yes, we absolutely would! The whole thing is a cross between Cluedo and Pokémon Go, there is lots of chasing virtual suspects down the street and the whole thing is in English!

So, if you are looking for a fun weekend event, check out whether there is another event near you! It’s dead good!


ELC = English Lady Cyclists?

ELC are proud to announce that we have made a step into a slightly greener world thanks to the cycle paths now dotting the lovely city of Marseille.

With our brand-new bicycles, we are throwing caution to the wind, putting on our best cycling pants, and treating our clients to the sight of our slightly reddened, slightly sweaty faces as we puff and pant up to their offices to impart our knowledge.

Granted, there are times when we are bumper to bumper with a Range Rover on a steep hill and battling for territory at the traffic lights. Granted we have not yet been on our bicycles in the middle of a tornado, we have not been attacked by a giant gabian, nor have we been caught on the Vieux Port as the Marseille rain sweeps us into the murky waters with all the detritus of the day, but we stand firm, we LOVE cycling and will continue to do so until the whole of Marseille is cycling with us!

And what, you might ask, do we like the most? Well, you may ask of course. What we really appreciate is:

  • The wind in our helmets as we whizz down the Corniche past cars stuck in traffic;
  • The fact that, since we started cycling, we haven’t received a single parking fine;
  • The fact that we can now stop for a chat when we see someone we like, or to help a tourist lost in the grittier parts of the city;
  • Our powerful new leg muscles;
  • The Lycra. (Yes, we admit it)

So, if this starts a biking phenomenon, so be it. We are ready for the cycle paths to be filled with fellow ‘cycologists’! 

Orange is the next ELC

ELC are great fans of our client Onet. https://en.groupeonet.com

They are a great team of people and, on top of that, they are highly trained in environmentalism.

Their cleaning branch has a circular economy called “Biogistics” which means that cleaning is done with eco-labelled products, they have a fleet of electric vehicles, they have a quality of life at work project, they control their waste on-site and off-site with numerous recycling bins, and constant reminders to turn off lights and use the stairs instead of the lift (“Thank you Onet”, for our buns of steel!), and best of all they have a Foundation that gives assistance and support to people living in poor housing.

Hence it was that the team at ELC found itself joining our friends to help out at the CHRS in la Valentine, along with students from the Lycée Pastré Grande Bastide. And how delighted we were when we were given the task of repainting a room ORANGE!

Our favourite colour to paint walls (as it is the messiest but also the happiest colour in the rainbow as far as we are concerned.)

It was a hot, stick and dusty day but morale was excellent, and the rooms looked GREAT!

See you next year, Onet Foundation, for more of the same, please!

ELC cleans up

As avid readers of our Blogs and loyal followers of our Facebook page, you will certainly be familiar with ELC’s ecological values. Indeed, we have very recently even bought an electric bicycle in order to leave only a stream of joy and a smile when travelling to and from our dear students’! And it is FUN!

But on Saturday 7thSeptember, we left our bicycles chained up at the office and headed to the spectacular scenery of the Catalan Beach, equipped with rubber gloves, bin bags and a flask of coffee, to clean up. 

The event was organized by the very fabulous Pure Ocean foundation https://www.pure-ocean.orgalong with the Cercle des Nageurs and held simultaneously on the beach, out at sea by eco-friendly sailors, underwater by undefeatable snorkelers and brave souls on the silty bottom of the Vieux Port. 

And by the end of the morning, the following had been collected: 3,800 litres of waste including 402 plastic bottles, 382 cans, 339 plastic bottles and 10,000 cigarette butts.

Now granted, we at ELC were not responsible for the whole of this 3,800 litre haul, but we did find some interesting trinkets on our treasure hunt, notably thousands of little coloured balls which remain a mystery to this day. Any answers would be welcome from fellow eco-warriors. 

See you at the next clean-up!       

ELC invigilates some exams.

Yes indeed. “Invigilates”. Possibly a new word for our dear French students. To “invigilate” is a lovely verb which means to supervise candidates during an exam. And this is precisely what we have been doing this past month. Now qualified to invigilate both TOEIC and BULATS exams, ELC has been striking fear into the hearts of our dear students with 2-hour long exam fests on-line. Just look how terrified everyone looks above!

ELC goes to London.

Yes indeed!

In the interests of being always better for our dear clients, ELC, as fully-fledged members of the TOLES examination network – that’s the Test of Legal English Skills for the lay folk – decided to go to London, to do a course in legal English.

The two-day event took place at the Law Society in Chancery Lane, the equivalent of the French Ordre des Avocats. Even as we exited the tube, we were aware of entering a whole new world. Busy lawyers strode down Chancery lane, their arms full of briefs, concentration furrowing their brows as they went over their pleas … The shops around us were filled with the wigs and gowns of barristers and our heads were immediately filled with scenes from great works such as “In the Name of the Father” and “The Trials of Oscar Wilde” but also films that we actually understood like “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Legally Bond”.

The event was held in the most beautiful of London buildings and the quality of the lecturers was second to none:

Elahe Ghazinoori, director of the law firm EMG Associates, gave an interesting opening speech on how to fireproof your contracts ahead of Brexit – a topic on everyone’s minds this week.

The author, Ken Adams gave a fascinating lecture on modern contract drafting: a move away from archaic terms and towards simpler, clearer texts.

Alex Hamilton, of the company Radiant Law, London, gave an insightful talk into the role of Artificial Intelligence in the legal profession and how we should neither shy away from nor fear new technologies but work hand in hand with it to improve our methods and make us more efficient.

Richard Lackey, international translator, took us through the tricky practice of translating legal terms from one legal jurisdiction to another and The event was closed by Catherine Mason, founding member and director of TOLES Legal, who gave an in-depth look into the mysteries of this excellent exam.

The quality and the professionalism of the seminar was excellent, but I cannot go without mentioning the warmth, the kindness, the intelligence and the wonderful spirit of co-operation between the attendees.

We cannot wait to meet them again at the next conference!

ELC does some sport

Yes indeed.

Something you might not know about teaching English is that it requires flexibility, stamina and excellent core strength.

It might seem that anyone can sit on comfortable chairs day after day, smile wisely and patiently explain the details of the present perfect with a sparkle in the eye. Alas no. Behind the scenes, there is a punishing training schedule worthy of the Foreign Legion.

The properly trained English teacher can leap on a missed particle in a second, correct a mispronounced diphthong without seeming to leave her seat and, in the blink of an eye, catch a falling flip chart as it slides dangerously towards an unsuspecting student’s head.

The improperly trained English teacher is likely to hide quaking behind said flip chart unable to answer a simple question about diachronic and synchronic language patterns. I mean honestly !

The team at ELC is devoted to the Juvenal philosophy of mens sana in corpore sano and wisely participates in a plethora of sports in order to centre on our chakras and be the best we can possibly be for our students.

It was precisely with this spiritual power in mind, that Katie and I entered the Muddy Angel race in Peyrolles this weekend and bathed in mud and bubbles in order to truly be.

And I think you will find that we are all the better for it.

The year was 1066. The event … the Battle of Hastings

The most famous date and the most famous battle in English history. The year that William, Duke of Normandy crossed the Channel and King Harold got a nasty surprise.

At this time, Saxon England didn’t have any firm rules about who became king. Basically, when one king died, the crown passed to anyone who could show they had a claim to it, or to anyone who was quick enough to take it.

When Edward the Confessor died on 5th January 1066, the King’s Council chose Harold Godwinsson as he was a ‘Nice Man’ who claimed that Edward had promised him the throne on his deathbed …

Everything went well for the coronation but then everything started to go pear-shaped.  Another pretender to the throne, William the Bastard, got word of Harold’s coronation and his French blood started to boil. He was NOT a happy Frenchman!

It seems that William had made Harold promise on holy relics, that he would support William in his quest to be King. And now he realised that that naughty Englishman hadn’t been entirely honest…!

No-one really knows whether this was true or not, but we know what happened next … a flaming ball of fire, described by the Anglo-Saxon chronicle at the time as a ‘hairy star’ appeared in the heavens. William was certain that this hairy star was a sign of God’s anger at Harold for breaking his oath and so it was ample authorisation for him to go to war …


… the very next day, he and his Norman army started building an invasion fleet.

Meanwhile, in England, Harold was having a wonderful time as king. His lover for many years had been the beautiful Edith Swan-Neck with whom he had had five sons and two daughters, but to cement his power with the English aristocrats, he decided to marry Ealdgyth, a woman whose brothers were powerful earls in the country.

He would have been better to concentrate on his other family, however. In the summer of 1066, with unfortunate timing, Harold learnt that his brother (who also would have liked to be king) had gone to see the King of Norway (the forth pretender to the throne) and the two had formed an alliance against Harold. The two had already landed their forces in Northumbria and had taken the town of York.

Harold knew that William was poised for attack on the other side of the Channel, but nevertheless, he marched his troops up Britain in record time, killed both men who threatened to take his throne, turned around and jogged all the way back to London where he collected reinforcements, and proceeded to Hastings, taking position on a hill to have the advantage over the Normans.

And so battle commenced.

Now, you will certainly have noticed that the handsome French are riding horses whereas the English are fighting on foot. Harold’s army did have horses … they rode them to battle, but then they tied them up and went into battle on their tired feet. This, it is said, was the beginning of their endings. The English, after their marathon exploit, were not prepared for the force of the Norman horsemen. There were also slight tactical errors when some of the Saxons left their positions at the top of the hill and ran down the hill shouting English insults at the French. Unfortunately, when they reached the bottom, there was no-where left to go except into the arms of the French who chopped them into pieces.

The Battle lasted six hours, and was one of the longest-recorded military encounters in the Middle Ages, but in the end England became Norman. Duke William of Normandy became England’s third king in the tumultuous year of 1066 and his defeated enemy Harold, lay dead on the battlefield with an arrow in his eye … or so we have always thought…!

The earliest recording of the arrow in the eye story has been found in an Italian chronicle written in 1080, but the more likely account of Harold’s death, written only the year after Hastings, is less romantic. According to the “Song of the Battle of Hastings” by Guy, bishop of Amiens, when Williams saw that Harold was still resisting, he handpicked a hit squad and went off to meet him.… four Norman knights tracked Harold down, and overpowered him, the first striking him in the breast, the second cutting off his head, the third putting a lance through his belly and the fourth hacking off his leg (or possibly another appendix if rumours are to be believed).

When William heard of this mutilation, he was horrified and sent home the knight responsible in disgrace.  However, he still took over the country and for 400 years following the Battle of Hastings, the English were subjected to subjugation, famine, ethnic atrocities and French humour.

And this is one of the reasons why we have so many nice French words in English, like to demand (‘exiger’ – you can see the misunderstanding between the two populations!), beef, mutton, pork, etc .. (notice that the meat takes the French names and the animals: cow, sheep, pig, etc … take the Saxon names….)

And so we see that the Bayeux Tapestry gives us 70m of “proof” (slightly modified over the years by seamstresses from France and England) that history can be just anything you care to make it and a lesson to learn for the future. Indeed, in 1940, when German forces had occupied Normandy and the rest of Northern France, and as Hitler was preparing to invade England, a group of scholars were dispatched to investigate what lessons could be learnt from the record of the last successful cross-Channel invasion! Who knows what would have happened to Churchill’s leg if he had made it across?!