Cast ne’er a clout ‘til the pandemic be out

Clothing life after Covid by Daniel

I’m sitting here, thinking about which clothes I’m looking forward to wearing again after the pandemic finishes. What clothes could they be? ‘Fancy’ clothes for nights on the town? A suit for the théâtre? A tuxedo as I hang around in high class bars and pretend to be James Bond?
Do I miss all of those? Did I wear them before? Do I even remember that far back in time? The more I think, the more I realise that I, like most other people, have been working from home a lot. And one advantage of working from home is that we can wear casual, comfortable clothes all day. If you are reading this, ask yourself: Do I prefer to wear comfortable clothes? Are the ‘fancy’ clothes that I wear when going out for a night on the town really so comfortable? Do I prefer to be comfortable? Is there anything wrong with wearing your old, casual clothes to a restaurant? Is James Bond comfortable? I’m not sure; he never seems to smile much.
Well, my answer to that is comfortable is really…comfortable. And I like comfortable. So if I’m being honest, of all the bad and terrible things this pandemic has been, the comfy clothes have been one of the few positives. I hope we will continue to dress casually. When the pandemic ends and the world returns to normal, if I see someone walking down the street in their pyjamas, I will smile and give them a thumb’s up. I understand their choice

 

The Search for the Post-Pandemic Fashion Trend by Amy

“I have always had a very strong sense of fashion”

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!)

ELC meets TED

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.

You can see part 1 here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT6Wf8OUHvo and part 2 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMqFfldE2yA

 

Beware the Ides of March – Upper-inters

2020-21 The Journal of a Pandemic year

Two young blonds and an escaped sheep enjoy a picnic in the carefree 1980s.

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 – Advanced learners

The Ides of March continue their grim work as Nick is garrotted by his own necklace.

‘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.

Soothsayer Augure
Grim determination Détermination inébranlable
To stab Poignarder

Beware the Ides of March – Intermediates

Beware the Ides Flies of March!

Marseille put on high alert as giant horsefly roams the Vieux Port, attacking passers-by.

While I really like the month of March, it has given us many memorable experiences and expressions over history, and not all are good. For example, the Ides of March was an important Roman religious date, famous for being the day when Julius Caesar found out that knives are really sharp. The term March Madness refers to an important basketball competition for American colleges, when supporters get a little crazy from all the excitement. The expression ‘Mad as a March Hare’ refers to the European Hare (lièvre), which has its peak breeding season (saison des amour) in March, during which they all—much like American Basketball fans—go a little crazy with all the excitement.  A number of disasters have also happened during March: in 1562 the Guerres de Religion began in Vassy; in 1909 the Titanic sank; in 1918 the ‘Spanish Flu’ officially started, and; in Japan in 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened, just to name a few examples. Is March bad luck? I hope not, but the month does have some explaining to do!

 Actually, the purpose of this text is to introduce the most diabolical (diabolique) thing associated with the word ‘march’—the March Fly. The March Fly is known as a taon in France, and as a horsefly in the US and other countries. If you’ve ever spent time with this little guy, you’ll know that its job is to terrorise you, sucking your blood and leaving you with painful reminders. It’s like a giant mosquito with a bad attitude. The name March Fly comes from the UK, and refers to the time of year when they first start to appear (March, at the start of Spring).

Much like a hole in the bottom of your boat, the March Fly is very good at being annoying. It’s known for its stinging bite (morsure cinglante). Usually, you will be minding your own business, enjoying life, and the first sign that you are in trouble is when you spot (repérer) one of them sitting on something, staring at you with its beady (perçant) little eyes. Now, at this stage, like any good horror movie, you can run but it’s too late to hide (se cacher). You can try to watch them, or shoo (déguerpir) them away, but sooner or later you will look away for a moment and then it will disappear. Dun dun dun! where has it gone…? You can try to pretend everything is ok, but you know that everything is not ok. Thirty seconds passes. A minute. Did it leave? No! Suddenly you feel a sting (piqûre) on your arm or leg. It’s got you! You try to hit it, but it flies away. Will it get you again? Most likely. The stress….

Beware the Ides of March – Beginners

A Year in the M***e

Katie celebrates a new delivery of toilet paper with her friends.

I love an excuse to celebrate : Birthdays, anniversaries, festivals, the list goes on, but this month we’re celebrating” a year of living with Covid.

When I look at the photos on my phone or my Facebook feed at the beginning of last year, I see images of my family and me enjoying our carefree lives. No masks, no curfews, and not a second thought to toilet paper !

I have been lucky (touch wood!), and I’m grateful for that, but I know people who haven’t: people who have lost loved ones, people who had difficulties at work and people who have suffered from the effects of the virus. On the positive side, I also know people who have created new life during the pandemic, found new relationships, reinforced existing relationships and have found inspiration and creativity. The only regret is that I cannot share these moments with them in person.

My hopes now are simple: I want my young daughter to see the green rolling hills of England and feel the embrace of her English grandparents. And maybe in the future we will have a National Lockdown Day every March when we wear party masks, have a drink with family and friends or kiss strangers in the street.

Right now, I’m celebrating life. Spring is here, flowers are blooming, birds are singing and I’m setting up a virtual party with my BFFs in the UK. A perfect excuse to celebrate and buy some more wine! Cheers!

ELC gains a member

It is with great pleasure that I say hello to you, and I do hope you have been staying safe and out of the wind as winter wraps itself around this beautiful city. Though having spent the previous six years living in Milan, I do prefer the winter here than further north!

I’ve been in this city now for about 3 months, and though I’ve spent several short periods of time living in Marseilles in the past—I was actually married here, in 2013—it’s only been this time that I’ve really been discovering the beauty of the city and surrounds. The sea! The calanques! The range of opportunity for getting outside and enjoying the nature is amazing, and I plan to make the most of it during my time here, which I hope is for a long time to come. As an Australian, spending time outdoors and in nature is a big part of my life, and as I jog along the coastline, hike through the parks, or throw a fishing line in the water I can see that it is the same for the people of Marseilles.

My path to Marseille has taken 43 years to achieve and has had some interesting stops along the way. I spent my 20s in the Australian Army, where I was a member of the Royal Australian Engineers corps. In that capacity I completed 2 tours of Iraq, in 2006 and 2007. I left just before I turned 30, and after a 6-month stay in Biarritz I headed back to Australia to complete a university degree in French and classical languages. I spent several years working for a casino and hotel group as their customer feedback coordinator. After that I spent some time working for a major subcontractor for an Australian national project to upgrade the country’s internet infrastructure. During this time, I also completed the CELTA course to teach English. After a short stint teaching in Australia, I moved to Italy in 2014 to join my wife, who had moved there to complete her PhD in neuroscience, and began teaching fulltime. In Italy I first spent a number of months in Genoa, and then we moved to Milan where my wife completed her studies. After another year of teaching, I also began working on didactic projects, where I was responsible for creating tests and programmes, and training teachers and staff. During these years I’ve developed a strong affinity for methodology, test design, and especially for spoken fluency. As someone who has studied several languages, I have a lot of personal experience with the struggle and uncertainty that comes with learning a language, and I do my best to use that knowledge when teaching and creating lessons and programmes. I like to focus on the things that block us when we speak—as you will know, there is a lot of language knowledge in your head, but it’s difficult to find the words quickly when you speak —and work on removing them.

So, it is with that experience, and that focus on really improving your spoken fluency, that I have come to Marseilles, to ELC. I’m incredibly fortunate to be involved with English Language Consulting, and to be able to benefit from the experience and positivity of Amy and all the team. I do hope that I get a chance to meet you and say hello, if I haven’t already. And if you see someone fishing or hiking that looks like the guy in the photograph, don’t hesitate to stop me and share your favourite nature locations!