In October 2018, 11 brave men and women arrived at the Maison de l’Avocat with a sense of trepidation and embarked on a marathon 18 months of legal English training with ELC. Some were lawyers, some were in-house lawyers, and one member of the team worked for an expert witness. Each member embarked on a voyage of discovery of the common law, visiting company law, contracts, damages, sale of goods law, intellectual property law, real estate law, tort, white-collar criminal law, debtors and creditors and even the dreaded litigation process.
They are the class of 2020: Nathalie, Pierre, Justine, Ali, Chloé, Anne, Agathe, Bastien and Jennifer. They are beautiful. We salute them!
Juggling with Katie
I think there are very few people who are successful in every aspect of their lives.
A lot of things take time and practice to perfect.
As we tell our students: consistency is key. If you’re learning a language, practising a sport or even trying to be the best parent you can possibly be. It takes work.
At the beginning of the 30-day challenge, I was highly motivated. I love drawing and I always wish I have more time to do it. As the days went on I found it more and more difficult to prioritise my own hobbies. My daughter began CP in September and is beginning to read so I’ve loved helping her do her homework and watching her progress. I also love my job and my students and working between home and Marseille has kept me active; which is important because I’m also pregnant and getting bigger, slower and less flexible every day!
Very often, I realised that it was the end of the day and I hadn’t picked up my pencil.
It’s not always easy but I haven’t given up yet. So, if you too are struggling to juggle everything, I completely understand. But keep going, we’re in it together!
The Challenge… thirty days later
One month ago, I enthusiastically threw myself into learning a new language. And for at least ten days, that enthusiasm made me push myself to learn as much as I could every day. I was very proud of myself, managing to crunch my way through fifty exercises a day, but then work and responsibilities slowed me down. I began to realise that what I tell my students must be true for me too: take it slowly, and don’t try to run before you can walk.
I realised that repetition, although quite boring, is actually very useful in helping to remember things, and that vocabulary does not simply enter your mind and stay forever – you have to work at it!
I understand that, as a language teacher, I have an advantage in understanding the processes and grammatical structures, but the mental gymnastics required to say things not only in different words but also in different ways can be exhausting.
Sometimes, in the past week, I have only managed five or ten minutes a day, but I believe that spending some time every day to maintain what has already been learned is extremely important. I’m happy to say that I feel my Spanish has improved a great deal, at least in terms of understanding. I fully intend to continue learning, because it has been such a pleasurable experience. And I’ve won myself more than four hundred crowns on the Duolingo platform!
All I need to do now is to actually speak the language with some real Spanish people!
Hasta la vista!
Regularity is key!
My challenge for September was born from a challenge that my 18-year-old daughter had set herself: be able to do the splits within 30 days. And of course, as I cannot resist a challenge myself, I joined her, safe in the knowledge that I had been able to do the splits when I was a young girl so there was no danger of me not achieving the same flexibility 40 years later.
30 days later, I am probably a centimetre closer to the ground than I was at the beginning of September, but I am more determined than ever! My sister-in-law used to boast that her grandmother of 90 would do the split at parties to amuse the crowd, so I have decided that THIS is my new challenge!
We always tell our lovely students that learning a language is like doing sport: regularity is key, but it is a long-term commitment. It is wonderful to observe the gains, but fluency is as easy to lose as a pert bottom if you don’t test it on a regular basis.
So, watch this space. I haven’t given up yet!
Jugglers (jongleurs), that’s what we are. Work, tasks, errands, cooking, friends, family, sleep—every week we try to juggle those, attempting to (en essayant de) find time for all of them. Some people even like to play on hard mode (en mode difficile), adding children, volunteering (volontariat), and other activities to the list. And, like a juggler, the more balls we have in the air, the more likely we can’t find time to catch them all.
One thing we might forget to add to our list is exercise. ‘I don’t have the time,’ you might say, or ‘I’ll start next week.’ How about this one— ‘I used to be fit! But I hurt my back/knee/foot.’ I’m certainly guilty of (coupable de) saying one or all of these. There is an expression, however, that we tend to forget: ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ (un esprit sain dans un corps sain). If we believe that saying to be true, then we must consider the long-term (à long terme) health impact of our busy lives on our bodies, if our bodies are not capable. We look after (s’occuper de) the engines in our cars, so that we can continue to use them, but we don’t always do the same for ourselves.
How much exercise should we get each week? There are many different recommendations, but about 30 minutes per day for about 5 days a week is a common recommendation. Even if (même si) we might need to exercise for longer, 30 minutes is better than 0 minutes. It could be as easy as parking your car further away from your work and walking, or sometimes choosing to ride a bike instead of taking your car or scooter.
Last month for my 30-day challenge I committed to (s’engager à) going to the gym (salle de sport) at least 5 times a week. That was my commitment (engagement) to ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. I succeeded in doing this, going a total of 35 times during the month. Now my goal is to continue. Healthy body, healthy mind!
ELC puts “flexibility” at the heart of its offer by Amy
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been bendy and most of my youth was spent in a strange gymnastic position: as a crab, doing headstands, handstands, cartwheels, back walkovers, front walkovers, ….
At 50 years old, I realise that it would probably be a mistake to attempt any of these again, especially on my own as no-one would be able to rescue me if I got stuck or cartwheeled off a terrasse, BUT …. As I intend to live to the age of 115 and as I intend to be bendy and stretchy to the end, my 30-day challenge is to succeed in doing the splits once again.
So this is me at the beginning of the challenge.
Objective: full splits with no permanent damage to my social life by the end of September. To be continued …
|Back walkover||Une souplesse arrière|
|To get stuck||Rester coincer|
|To do the splits||Faire le grand écart|
30-day Challenge by Nick
Amy suggested we take a thirty-day challenge to achieve something we had always wanted to do. It was the first day back at work, and I was already exhausted! My holiday had been spent moving everything out of my flat to live permanently in the countryside; coping with a broken water pump and picking up my family – and that was just the first day! For the next month I was running around looking after anything between six and ten people and smoothing the inevitable minor disagreements between teenagers.
My immediate thought was to take the ‘do nothing’ challenge. Doing absolutely nothing at all for thirty days straight called seductively to me. Just take a snap of myself napping every day for a month!
But after a good night’s sleep and the realisation that work had, indeed, started again, it was clear that that was not a viable option, however tempting it may be. Exchanging ideas and seeing the problems and delights of learning a language with my students slowly lit a bulb in my head: learn a language! Languages are both my business and my passion – I speak three fluently and manage to garble a few phrases in two others. One of those two is Spanish, and I decided to put myself to the test and have given myself the challenge of learning Spanish in thirty days. The first three days have flown by in a flurry of excitement, but I can barely say anything more than when I began. I think the real test will be to see if I can keep it up, every day for a month… and how much I’ll learn, of course.
I’ll keep you posted!
30 days of illustrations by Katie
I grew up with a big sister and a big brother who teased (taquiner) me mercilessly…as older siblings (frères et sœurs) do. One of my big brother’s favourite pastimes was to invent stories to terrify me; including tales of how they found me in a turnip field (un champ de navets) when I was a baby and how my twin brother ate too many bananas, turned into (se transformer en) a monkey and escaped to live at the zoo.
Luckily, instead of traumatising me for life, the teasing made me stronger, made me creative and develop a sense of humour. So, Amy and Louis…thank you for that!
One of the stories, which originated from my grandmother and was twisted (tordu) by my brother was the story of a little boy and a cat. The little boy is curious how the cat makes a purring (ronronner) noise when it’s happy, so the cat opens its mouth to show him the machinery inside….that’s where it gets a little dark.
My family still remember this story even years later (my parents were both equally proud and disturbed by my brother’s creativity) so one day, my sister and I decided that it would be a good idea to write it down and illustrate it.
This was a few years ago and unfortunately the project remains unfinished.
All is not lost though, because the 30-day challenge is my opportunity to finally complete our book.
“Peter and the Cat” is not a long story, but we have many more in mind, including the character that Amy and I created: “Louis Zoover and his Magic Hoover”.
If I can work on an illustration every day, we will soon be the new Grimm siblings and I will be able to terrify my own children in turn. What a nice thought, I can’t wait to get started!
My 30-day Sporting Challenge by Daniel
Personal challenges: easy to say, easy to start, easy to stop, easy to forget. The tough part is getting past the start, when you’re very motivated and very serious about your new life-changing decision. Motivation, however, is like a child carrying an ice-cream; sometimes they won’t drop it straight away, sometimes they’ll get half-way across the room and drop it when they see a cookie, and sometimes they’ll ignore it because Peppa Pig is on the TV.
My own history with personal challenges is inconsistent, to be honest. Countless times I’ve declared that it’s time I ate healthier, or will learn to paint, or learn Arabic, or learn programming, or some other amazing idea. Immediately after declaring my intention, however, I quickly pretended I never said it. No witnesses means no accountability!
There have been times, though, when I did something for longer. For example, once I had read about people that would run at least 1 mile (1.6km) a day, every day. Some people had been doing that for years, and the record was about 40 years of running every day. If you could run at least 1 mile every day for a year then they would put your name on a website. “I can do that,” I said to myself, “I want to be on that website,” and hurried to look for my running shoes at the back of the wardrobe. I actually lasted 144 days, running at least a mile a day, many times much more, before the flu and a trip overseas made me stop. I didn’t get my name on that obscure website, but 144 days is still a pretty good effort.
Why am I talking about challenges, though? Well, the holidays are over, and it’s time to start a new year of work. We’re all (hopefully) refreshed and full of energy, and so it’s a great time to declare a new challenge. Not every challenge needs to be a grand adventure though; there’s nothing wrong with choosing a smaller, modest challenge. In fact, small things can lead to big things. My challenges tend to be focused on exercise or sport, and that will continue this year. Because I recently purchased a gym subscription, my 30-day challenge will be to go to the gym at least 5 times a week. I think that’s a good mix of ambitious and modest; not easy, but not impossible.
Let’s see how I go…
My Life as a Crab by Amy
After 30 years of living in the South of France, I would like to be able to say that I understand Mediterranean summers, but apparently, I haven’t learnt a thing!
In 2 BC (that’s two years before covid – or 2019 for those more traditional among you), the family and I decided to spend summer in Sardinia, having been told about its wonders by our Nick who spends many months there every year. And indeed, it is wonderful …. Crystalline waters, empty beaches, magical creeks, great food, lovely people … Our trip took us from Oristano on the west coast, to Orosei on the east coast, to Chia in the south – all extraordinary places.
During our stay in Orosei, we decided to visit the beautiful Cala Goloritzé, which can be reached either by boat, or by a 3-hour hike through the creeks. As we are a family that enjoys a challenge, we decided on the latter and set off at noon, the time at which mad dogs and English families start a marathon trek.
The hike took us through some beautiful settings. The views from the cliffs were breath-taking and the vegetation gave some welcome shade from the 42° temperatures and the punishing sun. From time to time, we came across a fellow hiker who was sitting on a rock, panting, or drinking furiously from a bottle of water, but on we went …. The temperatures continued to climb and so did we, through the rocks and the sand, sitting from time to time to catch our breath and drink and drink and drink …. And on we went, ignoring the scorched earth and the skeletons of the lizards until we could hear the sounds of the beach nearby.
And at this point something happened to my body. Something that I can only describe as a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde experience as pins and needles filled me from head to toe, all my limbs became rigid and unmovable, and I transformed into … The Crab.
Luckily for me, we had practically arrived and there was a bar nearby and my daughters were able to run to get me some sugar in the form of a Magnum ice-cream, after which the feeling generally returned to my hands and feet, and I was able to open my crab pincers … but it was a close shave, and we all learnt a valuable lesson about being Mad Dogs.
The family still speaks in hushed tones of The Crab and I have never been able to look a Magnum ice-cream in the face since!
To cream, or not to cream…that is the question.
I am rarely mistaken for a French person. I’m too pale skinned and freckled (taches de rousseur). After more than 10 years living in a hot country I think I’ve finally learnt how to handle the sun, but it’s been a long journey!
When I visited as a teenager, the objective was to absorb as much sun as possible. Even walking up the steps to the plane I would walk like a zombie just to make sure my arms and face were as tanned as possible. When I say tanned, I am either slightly less white with more freckles or burnt to a crisp (cramé). There is no in-between.
When my friends come to visit they are the same. I once took a friend to a hammam after a week of Marseille sun. The masseuse wanted to practise her English but the only phrase she could think of was « haha, red tomato » while pointing to our burnt skin.
Before we were old enough to go abroad we would go to Cornwall in the south of England for our holidays. For those of you who think it rains every day in England, you’re very wrong. We would spend all day on the beach, sunbathing, swimming, body boarding and of course flirting with the surfers. Suncream was for wimps (les poules mouillées), and it’s the English sun so there was no danger, right? Wrong! In the evening, when we got changed into our nightclubbing outfits we realised how burnt we were. We couldn’t sit down at the restaurant because of our burnt thighs and we danced like starfish in the clubs as our clothes felt like sandpaper (papier de verre). We covered ourselves in aftersun cream but it just evaporated off our hot skin. That night we basically slept against the wall of our hostel to cool off.
The next day though we were back on the beach, sizzling like bacon. We didn’t learn. Back home, we would compare our tan lines and delight in peeling our damaged skin off like dried glue.
This is why my daughter is always the whitest child on the beach. She always has at least 3 layers of sun cream 50+ which makes it very difficult to hug her as she slips right out of your arms like an oily fish. But at least she’s protected. I’m sure there will be a time when she rebels but when that moment comes, I have photo albums of horrifying pictures of her mother on the beach, just in case.
Mad dogs and Englishmen
They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. That’s not true, no way. English women do it too. I do have a story to support that, and it’s true. Once, long ago now, I was in the army and, like many soldiers at the time, I was deployed overseas. I won’t say the location, because it doesn’t matter–I believe that my story would have been true no matter which part of the world I was in.
During my time overseas there was a lot of fighting around us and of course, in these situations you need to be protected from bullets (balles), rockets and mortars as much as you can. Simple, right? Of course. Unless you’re British and the sun comes out…
At one stage during my deployment, I was sent to work with the British Army for a week. At that time this new location was said to be the most mortared place in the world (l’endroit le plus mortié du monde). All the buildings were covered in dirt and rocks to protect them, and there were big concrete walls between buildings to block them. We were under attack every day, but we were safe in our protected buildings. But then something happened that made me question the mentality of British people: Once the sun appeared from behind the clouds, the area was filled with British soldiers who began to lie on the ground with most of their clothes off, sunbathing (prendre un bain de soleil). Suddenly, the danger didn’t matter anymore. Rockets? Don’t care. Mortars? They’re nothing! The sun is so rare in England that the world stops for an English person when the sun comes out. Nothing else matters.
Only mad dogs and English people go out in the midday sun? Well, I don’t know about the dogs, but it’s certainly true for the English.
Mad wasps and an Englishman
My tale of summer madness goes back four years. It was mid-July and a pleasant thirty-five degrees in the shade. I was a widower, living with my wonderful ninety-year-old mother-in-law. My fiancé had just arrived from Sardinia and was sleeping because of missing the last train and spending the night on a hard bench at the station.
Mother-in-law noticed that the bottle-brush tree needed a bit of a trim so I got up and started hacking away at it. What I hadn’t noticed was the wasp’s nest. Wasps don’t like to be disturbed at midday and the entire colony decided to attack my shirtless body. I ran out screaming, but reassured myself that I was not allergic to wasp stings.
I went on to prepare lunch and, despite the pain from a hundred wasp stings, Tetta (my mother-in-law) and I had a relaxed lunch, serenaded by gentle snoring from the bedroom.
I got up to make coffee and felt a little wobbly. Before I knew it, I was lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. I woke up to the wailing lamentations that only an Italian mamma can make, calling on all the saints to save both her and me. I suggested she call my fiancé. Perhaps only an Italian fiancé can outdo an Italian mamma in lamentation! I suggested calling my doctor.
Within five minutes, three ambulances were outside my house and a gaggle of paramedics heaved me onto my bed, fixed up drips on both my arms and told me I was lucky to be alive. Fortunately, one of them had had the good sense to pick a few kilos of figs from the garden, which lightened the conversation from what Tetta had whispered to my fiancé – “What will we do if he dies? We haven’t got the money to pay for the funeral!”
I bit into a fig and laughed at the absurdity of it all.
How I manage not to throw an axe by Amy
It is not uncommon for people to ask me where I find my bounce … and it’s true that I tend to go through life as though hopping from trampoline to trampoline.
First of all, life is always easier when you are blessed with a happy, optimistic disposition, and I thank my grandmother, Hoo-hoo (yes, Hoo-hoo) for that. Hoo-hoo was named because whenever she came into the house, she would call out at the top of her voice “Yoo-hooooooooo, is anybody there?” and as a young child, I must have identified her like this. Hoo-hoo was always incredibly curious about people, relationships, what made people tick …. She loved a laugh, she loved her food and she was always game for anything. If I can live as long and as happily as Hoo-hoo, I will be a happy woman.
But when the days are long and the nights are short, and dreams are full of administration, two things seem to work for me.
One is my exercise bike: purchased during the first weeks of the pandemic to stop the family from going bonkers, it has been a friend in moments of needing to let off steam. I hop on top, close my eyes and off I go …. Pedalling through the Greek countryside, side by side with Jean Dujardin, probably cycling a lot faster than him but looking as fresh as a rose all the same …. Or puffing up the side of a Himalaya with the Dalai Lama listening to his words of wisdom while I smile beatifically.
The other is bread. There is nothing quite like pummelling the hell out of a lump of dough to put you in a good mood.
The proof is I have never yet needed to throw an axe at someone, although I have been known to get into the odd flour fight from time to time!
The act of fishing is relaxing
Fishing can be very relaxing. It’s like sitting next to the water, but with a chance to catch a fish. There are, of course, different styles of fishing. Some styles are more active than others, or require more equipment, however the most basic style doesn’t require much. All you need is your rod, some bait, and patience. That last item—patience—is the important one. Because you might wait hours for a fish to come along and find your bait. In a day of fishing you might only have a few moments of action, and so it’s those long periods between the action that the relaxation happens!
While you’re waiting for a fish there are many things to do. You can read a book, you can explore the area (don’t go too far from your rod!), you can play a game on your phone, if you like. Sounds not relaxing enough for your tastes? What would you like to do if you were spending several hours in a beautiful location next to the water? Sunbathe? Not a problem! Practise painting? Well, why not! Start writing a novel that will make you famous? What better time! Go to sleep? Hmmm, possibly, but maybe you should tie your rod to your hand first, in case a fish tries to take it! No matter what you do while you sit there, you’ll have the opportunity to do something that relaxes you. Because, you see, it’s not really the fishing that’s relaxing, it’s what you do while you’re there that’s important.
Doing it Myself
Some might find it relaxing to go for a jog around the park, others enjoy throwing an axe at a tree. Me? I love building stuff!
At university I studied Art and Design. It was a wonderful combination of everything I loved doing; drawing, painting, creating things from various materials and learning how to use enormous power tools that my father would never let me touch at home. I remember the thrill of cutting a piece of wood with a huge circular saw. The type of saw you could see in a James Bond film, with 007 escaping seconds before losing an important body part. I also had the opportunity to try some welding, like the woman from Flashdance…a wonderful experience, even without the dancing.
As you can imagine, I rarely had the opportunity to use my new skills after university but then at the end of last year my husband and I bought our own house. I saw my opportunity, found my safety goggles and got to work. In English we use the expression DIY (Do it yourself). During the lockdown, that’s exactly what people did. Instead of paying someone else to build a shed or to put a shelf up, they did it themselves. And thanks to these people I have lots of YouTube videos to help me through my own renovations.
For me, there is nothing more satisfying that being able to say: « I made that ». Anything I can build brings me enormous joy, even an IKEA flat pack. I’ll happily spend my weekends laying floorboards, designing my dream bathroom, measuring, cutting, hammering. If at the end of the day I am covered in paint or wood chips you will also see a big smile on my face.
Finally, I think it’s a good « girl power » lesson for my daughter. If you want something done, do it yourself!
Looming deadlines, covid anxiety and the surreal world of virtually meeting people you have not seen physically for months mean we’re all suffering from unprecedented levels of stress. As the world is slowly opening up around us, with restaurants and bars welcoming us to their terraces, and the very real possibility that soon we may be able to stay outside long enough to watch the sun set in the presence of a few friends, there is another form of stress building – how to interact socially when we’re so out of practice?
So we need to let off steam, decompress, and wind down. Personally, there are three things I do when it’s all too much for me: I go into my garden and rage at the weeds and destructive insects. I dig and prune and feed my plants. I take the time to revel in the beauty of nature; but overnight the insects start their destructive work again.
Or I cook. I take out my pots and pans, slice and dice, fry, simmer and steam until the house is full of tantalising smells. But then I turn around and rage at the ungodly mess I have created around the kitchen and I clatter and bang it all into a semblance of order.
Finally, I sit and think: I’m a writer, and concentrating my thoughts, ordering them, connecting them, trying to give them communicative form is, perhaps, the best way I know of draining tension from my body. But then I re-read what I have written the next morning and rage at the inadequacy of what had seemed so inspired.
More than anything, these are all solitary pursuits and, right now, I feel the need of company to really let off steam.
Two weeks ago, I had a truly liberating experience. It was a beautiful day – the heat of summer in the middle of spring – and I spent the afternoon at the beach with friends. Idle chatter and lazy swimming put us all in a good mood. At the end of the afternoon, we decided to walk into town, and we stopped at the first restaurant that had space for us. The owner was a jovial man, passionate about his job. He told us to trust him and in the warmth of early evening, looking out over the calm sea, we were all smilingly at peace with the world. The food and the wine were excellent, the atmosphere that of a family party as the people on the neighbouring tables joined our conversation and the owner came to sit with us.
Whether it was the timing, or the combination of friends and strangers, but that first meal in a restaurant after so many long months of meeting nobody new, was the perfect antidote to stress.
The Search for the Post-Pandemic Fashion Trend by Amy
After all major crises, fashion has changed. After the constraints of the first world war, women’s fashion became more casual, in the 1930s and 40s, fashion had an escapist theme and maps were even printed onto clothes in case of emergency! In the 1960s, when the economy was robust and divorce rates were rising, there was a liberation of fabric and mini-skirts became all the rage. In the 70s, in reaction to the Vietnam War and Human Rights issues, people began to dress in camouflage, and this was adopted by designers on the catwalks…
People have influenced fashion throughout the ages: think Jackie Kennedy, think Madonna, think Kim Kardashian, think my personal favourite: Boris Johnson …..!
But the question now is, how will Covid-19 affect the fashion industry? Already, we are seeing a conflict of tastes between indoorwear and outdoorwear with social media fans warring between wfhfits (‘working from home’ wear) and #goingnowherebutfuckitimgettingdressed (no explanation required here).
My predictions for the fashion industry are the following:
– with our growing awareness about the environment, the clothes of the future will be sustainable and use organic products, like cactus (without the spikes obviously);
– there will be a movement away from high street designers who produce in mass and a preference for local designers making one-off pieces (watch this space for ELC’s favourites in the coming months);
– With months spent at home, people will have developed sewing and knitting skills and will begin making or transforming their own clothes, creat ing a fabulous world of unique personal pieces, and
– All new clothes will contain little pockets for emergency items like hand sanitizer, phone rechargers and a roll of toilet paper (one never knows).
“Do clothes make the man?” By Nick
For longer than I care to remember, I’ve used clothes as a kind of armour. Fitting the clothes to the occasion has always felt like deflecting potential criticism from my imagined weaknesses: if the clothes look good, then the man inside must be worth something.
It’s a vain and superficial façade. It always has been, but society thrives on vain and superficial façades; good suits suggest success and often the suggestion of success is enough to boost your income.
At the same time, dressing up is also a game of seduction and sensitivity: the clothes you choose reflect what you feel about the people you are to meet during the day and may reflect ease, empathy or a power play.
But all that was before the pandemic.
After a year of Zooming and Teamsing from home, where the half-hour commute to work has been reduced to the 10-second walk from my bedroom to my study and nobody sees anything of me below my shoulders, I’m pleased enough if my face is washed, my hair brushed and my shirt not too creased. The idea of choosing an outfit, putting on my best shoes and a dazzling tie is something I can no longer get my head around. After all, what’s the point? And strangely, I don’t feel any less of a person as a result. Was all the worrying about clothes, and image and armouring myself against the world a complete waste of time?
Now, the end of pandemic life is in sight. Slowly but surely, we’re getting vaccinated and we will arrive at a level of herd immunity that means going to the restaurant or meeting a client for a coffee will be both possible and desirable.
And then, nothing will stop me from putting on my glad rags and dressing up to the nines. I can’t wait to walk out again sporting that vain, superficial façade…!
Searching for my “Sole” Mate by Katie
Why is it that no matter how many millions of pairs of socks I buy, I never seem to have any?
It is one of life’s great mysteries!
I have a sock box full of sad, lonely, single socks and I have no idea where their partners are. Did the washing machine eat them? Does someone break into my house every night to steal one sock? Or did I even buy a pair in the first place? Since the first lockdown, I have appreciated my socks even more than usual as I have exchanged my high heels for slippers and comfortable trainers so socks are an essential part of my outfit. And there are so many varieties….animals, spots, stripes, flowers, the possibilities are endless. I have even seen ones that make you look like you have chicken legs. Amazing!
Socks also often appear in many English idioms: if we feel sorry for someone we say “bless his cotton socks!”, (‘Bénissons ses petites chaussettes en coton”), if someone needs to work harder, we tell them to “pull their socks up” (Remonte tes chaussettes!’), if something surprises you it “knocks your socks off”! (“Ca m’a fait tomber les chaussettes!”)
The humble sock is a wonderful and underestimated thing, and if any friends or family are reading this…. a very welcome present (just make sure there are two!)
As our avid readers will surely know, ELC has a particular passion for TED. For those of you who do not yet know the TED conferences, they bring together people with fascinating stories, innovative ideas, and positive messages for the world. Their motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading…” and their initials stand for Technology Entertainment and Design. ELC has been both a sponsor and part of the organisational team since 2017 and is very proud to present this year’s event. True, the talks are in French (for now … once uploaded to the TED website, they will be translated and subtitled into English) but as you are so important, we thought you might like quick preview …. Beware, the link will only be available for a week, but it is definitely worth viewing! The speakers are moving, inspirational and touching. We hope you love them as much as us.
2020-21 The Journal of a Pandemic year
I have just had an incredible thought. It may have been intentional. It may have been a co-incidence, but when I think back to my A-levels studies in German, French and English literature, no less than five of my compulsory novels were about people living in lockdown. And if I could remember ANYTHING at all about my A-level German novels, I am sure I could find more!
The first was Sartre’s “Huis Clos”: three people living together in a room with constant light and no eyelids, condemned to live out the rest of their existence in each other’s excruciating company.
The second was Jean Anouilh’s: “La Belle Vie” the last aristocratic family in an imaginary country, spared from execution as long as they live as they lived before … eating, drinking, gambling, general debauchery … but from inside a museum where the people can come an observe them like animals in a zoo.
The third was Shakespeare’s “Tempest”: a ship carrying a prince and his crew is caught in a magical storm and crashes onto an island, leaving them in the company of precisely the people they usurped ten years before. Tense party atmosphere guaranteed.
The fourth was Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year”: A detailed account of the lockdown in London in 1665 during the outbreak of the bubonic plague. Lots of descriptions of boils. Nice.
The fifth was Camus’ “La Peste”. Need I say more?
I can only imagine that someone, somewhere in the universe was preparing me for the great Huis Clos Plague Year of March 2020-21.
I am happy to report that my experience was more Belle Vie than Huis Clos (minus the threat of execution of course). And who knows? The phenomenon of living in confinement has inspired great men and women to write some of the finest works of literature in the whole world. Maybe in 300 years, people will say the same of the ELC blog! Now wouldn’t that be nice? 🙂
‘Beware the Ides of March,’ the soothsayer warns Julius Caesar. Perhaps we should too. One year ago, the Ides of March, the ancient Roman name for 15th March, marked the beginning of lockdown in France. With a grimdetermination, we locked ourselves down, put on our masks, sanitised our hands and stopped seeing friends and all but our closest families. Somehow, we were sure our small sacrifices would ensure our survival.
Julius Caesar believed he need not worry too much about the soothsayer’s warning. But on 15th March in the year 44 B.C., he was stabbed to death for treason.
Over the past year, 118 million people have been infected with coronavirus, and 2.6 million have died. The Ides of March 2021 bring a warning of continuing infection, uncertainty as regards governmental and social strategy as we all grow tired of the monotony of living with the pandemic; meanwhile new variants are running wild throughout the world.
Nevertheless, vaccines exist and slowly our populations are being inoculated. We can begin to see a way out. But, like the Roman empire after the death of Julius Caesar, we are at a crossroads: for them, it was the choice between the populist Marc Antony and his strong-arm tactics, or the idealistic Brutus and the rule of the people. For us, it is the choice between the return to the old normal, with its known imperfections and comforting certainties, or the construction of a new, fairer, less polluting and more equitable world. I know what my preference is but I am not sure to have the courage to enact change.
|Grim determination||Détermination inébranlable|