Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ah la vache! (oh the cow!): oh my god!

Ah so been a busy bunny since last blog! Been trying to sort out bank accounts, things I pay which I will no longer need, a moving in date and how the hell I am going to get there in the first place as well as thinking "oh dear god I am actually going to be teaching these children..."

Do you remember your teachers at school?

Exactly, yes you do, these are people who influence and can shape your future and maybe make a difference to whether you pay attention and do well in school or not.

So no pressure then...

What do i say: thank god for the Internet and resources galore for those of us in charge of classes of children who are not in their chairs for my lesson so have the ability to wriggle, giggle and run free and yet are also expected to listen to me. Even if they don't speak my language. I'm under no disillusions here about how tough this is going to be.

Children can also smell fear and the second you walk into that classroom on day 1 they have you SUSSED. My mum delights in telling me my first 10 minutes will set the rest of the year. I keep trying to envision my first day and all I can see like some movie in my head is that scene from kindergarten cop when arnie stands in front of his new charges and says (insert your arnie accent now)

" ok class today we are going to play a game it is called who is your daaaaaddy and what does he do?"

If that flashes into my head when I am first introduced to my class I am going to just die (laughing).

So I just booked my ferry crossings which was kind of sad especially as the conversation went something like:

K: hi yes I'd like to book a return ferry crossing please
O: ok how many people for?"
K: um 2 going there 1 coming back...

Actually sounds ominous doesn't it?!

Reminds me of that joke where a boy and a girl are walking at night through some woods and the girl says
"creepy in here isn't it?!" and the guy says
"it's alright for you, you haven't got to walk back on your own..."
( I have a weird sense of humour for that I make no apologies)

So it's done, my one way ticket booked and with only my friend returning once he has dumped me and my things in France, boo hiss, but I am so grateful for his help with this although we get a few days chilling there so going to pretend it's a holiday in the french countryside (am dog sitting for the first few days I am there so will be spending the weekend in denial over the coming Tuesday when he leaves in a lovely detached house with views over the French countryside and 2 german pointers and a handful of chickens to keep us company! and I'm not saying goodbye after just "a bientot" there that sounds better.

Also cancelled BT, broadband, TV license (with great pleasure) booked car, booked ferry sorted banks (or rather not because they are a git, whichever way i tried it they all tried to charge me at least £20 a month for transferring from euros to gbp even if it was within their own company still (yes HSBC I'm talking about you!) and I'm now bumming around when not training people til it's time to leave and trying to fit in sightseeing where poss and also try to keep dinner and drinks invites to a minimum. I want to see people but seriously it's costly saying goodbye and I am not going to be earning anything till the end of September from here on which is a terrifying prospect!

Anyway Back to the house at least I now actually have somewhere to live and a definite date to move in. Having seen pics it's a lovely little old house with White Walls, massive French windows (excuse the semi-pun) and grapes growing on the front of the house. My window is surrounded by a network of lush green vines, it looks very perfect pretty french farmhouse-esque with a large garden, lovely terrace and most importantly wi-fi!!!! ( so thanks to viber, skype and iPad) I wil not be totally cut off from the world when I get there, sorry mum ;) also all bills included for €400 a month, little supermarket nearby (hmmmm in my experience little supermarkets cost the earth so regular trips to the Auchan and Carrefour at Val D'Europe it is!) and right on the bus route that goes past the school and straight to Disney, perfick! Even better i get 50% of my travel costs reimbursed every month as standard by my employer (its a scheme the french governemnt have to encourage use of public transport: Boris are you listening?!) although will also be cycling a bit and a car will be on the cards eventually oh the freedom!

Accomodation did not come with the job so have been house hunting from here which is interesting! Needed to keep it cheap and there's a massive catch 22 when it comes to renting in France. 1. You need an address 2. You need 3 months worth of payslips. Well I need to live there in order to get 3 months worth of wage slips and I also need to live there to have an address.... Not helpful. They also require a good 3 months rent in advance by way of a deposit and agency fees so looking at a good €1500 before I have even moved in (and this is based on a studio flat in the area) soooo refer back to last paragraph. I do not have a spare €1500 so that's that. Anyway managed to get a house share with what seems to be a very crazy multi lingual Irish lady whose ex husband used to be an imagineer for Disney and still is only he is with Disney in Florida and she is still there having not had the courage to move again once she uprooted from Ireland. She sounds lovely, bonkers but lovely. How do I find these people??!! Or maybe they find me. She talks a lot. Now I talk a lot but not this much, had a conversation with her a couple of days ago and am now communicating via email where possible as fear I will need a small bank loan to pay the bill if I have to call her in france from a mobile (thank god she called me). Because she is irish she has that hard to hear accent where words are pronounced, well, in that Irish 'at least they know what they have just said' way, but because she has been living in Paris so long she mixes up her languages so it certainly makes for an interesting conversation and it is an understatement to say she goes off on a tangent!!!

Here is a snippet of an email she sent me (I wanted to double check that she had no problem with matty staying with me for the first night or 2 when I got there out of politeness and the reply was as follows: my email is first hers is below:

> Message du 30/07/11 00:30
> De : "Karen Duffield"
> A :"
> Copie à :
> Objet : Re: Condé
Brilliant thank you keep me updated, like I have said before my friend is coming with me to help me move so just want to check thats okay with you? he'll only be around for a night or 2 at the most; i promise he is very lovely and house trained.

Karen x

> > >
> > > Karen Duffield
> > > Personal Trainer
> > >
> > > Sirius Personal Training
> > > T: 07766 658942
> > > E:
> > >
> > > Sent from my iPhone

Hi Karen,

On a good -fun note,  what does "house -trained" mean?  I'm getting a bit worried now!!    It puts myself in question; everytime I seem to put everything in its place, No,I'm not quite settled.  I have to draw out some sort of quasi -artistic STUFF (scraps bits and pieces,brocantes; could be anything).   Was very good at Latin though, 85 per cent.
So about Your friend, house-trained, is He a Cat?  I'll arrange to have a small quarry of sand in a corner.  I'd go daft if someone referred to me as 'house-trained' unless I was a newly -born kitten!  Hope Your friend doesn't read your mail.  Oh, Là, Là,

à bientot

I cannot WAIT to meet this woman. She says the other girl who lives there at the moment is 'very busy, always in a hurry and dashing off out....'

Anyone else thinking what I'm thinking ;)

Anyways I've done enough updating for the day, I'm going to head off to Kensington gardens for a walk in the sunshine and then I'm off out for more goodbyes tonight, then tomorrow, then I have a day or 2 off, then more goodbyes in soho, then more goodbyes somewhere else, then I have visitors and then it'll be 3 weeks to go....

I will put myself forward for these things :)

Stay happy x

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

avoir le démon de midi (lit: to have the midday demon): to have a midlife crisis)

So here it is my new blog! Hopefully I'll be able to keep on top of this one a little better than my other one of late but this new blog is inspired by lifestyle change and a bit of begging. Mainly from my mum.

The method behind this blogging madness is a couple of years ago I undertook a 3 week road trip in the US with my best friend Dawn and as communication with the folks back home was going to be few and far between and my dad has watched too many slasher flicks where teenagers disappear on spring break...

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I came up with the idea of doing a blog so they could follow me every step of the way without me breaking my budget by calling home every day to say I was still alive (and it was better they found out what I had been doing AFTER such incidents as me doing an ilegal U-turn on the freeway near Vegas, the crazy guy in the pickup who followed us along the PCH at Big Sur, the 2 guys who stalked me along Venice Beach offering to carry my bag for me, the fact the approach to LAX has 7 lanes of traffic and that our sat Nav died halfway through the Nevada desert.... Noooo they don't need to find out about this stuff till waaaaay after the event :) and if you are that bored that
original travel blog can be viewed here:

Little did I know my friends and colleagues would also start to follow these adventures and they actually became really popular! So much so that when a short while later I set up my own business as a personal trainer I went on to start up a fitness and lifestyle blog. Again the power of the Internet meant people as far away as the Middle East started reading about my ventures and I even got to write a couple of fitness articles for publication off the back of it. Good work. So that's how I got blogging.

So why this new blog why now?

Well recently things went a bit 180 for me and as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air would say 'my life got flipped turned upside down'. Ok ok it's not as dramatic as that but things as they inevitably do; changed. To quote the poem 'with every goodbye' (google it) learn to build all your roads on today because futures have a way of falling down mid-flight.

So what happened? Well in short; I was settled in Central London (Canary Wharf) running my own Personal Training business with my partner when it happened (as these things do) we split. Actually after repeatedly cheating on me for a year he ditched me and ran off with someone else. Hey no one said life was easy, but you'd have thought people could be a little kinder...

I had initially given up everything, my whole life as i knew it, friends, family and moved to London from Devon to be with him so....gasp shock horror what do I do now???

week 1: I moped like you wouldn't believe
Week 2: I got angry and when I get angry I get pro-active
Week 3: I started to reap the benefits of week 2

Anyway about week 2; this prompted me to get off my backside and re-evaluate. I came out of a 12 year relationship prior to meeting this guy (divorce going through at present) and horrendous as it was I survived so What were my plans previous to this person being in my life? PARIS! I had always wanted to go to Paris. Back in 2009 I successfully auditioned to be a stand in for the role of Annie Oakley in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris but to date nothing had come of this. Why Paris? If I'm honest, I just don't know. I am just in love with the place and always felt I belonged there.

Anyway last year I had been doing lots of research into moving out there and getting work so I dug out all my old notes (that's how serious i was) and came across a website useful for anglophones looking for work in France so I revisited it and BOOM!!! There was a job a little way down the list: "international primary school near Disneyland Paris seeks anglophones assistant teacher to teach sports and activities...."

I barely read the rest of it before my CV was winging it's way out.

I didn't think I stood much hope but hey you have to try else you will never know.

2 weeks later I was sat staring at the river Seine being watched over by Notre Dame Cathedral and trying to work out what the hell to do with my job offer. Yes that's right OFFER I only bloody got it. So here I was being offered my dream and all I could think of was that I loved London and was pretty happy there and I really loved this guy and whinge whinge whinge moan. I looked at the boats full of tourists cruising up and down the Seine cheerfully waving at me and remembered that little over 2 years ago I was one of them waving cheerfully to the people like me now chilling by the river and thinking 'lucky buggers they get to live here' the amount of times I had sat in this exact spot wishing I didn't have to leave and now here I was being given a total get out of jail free card and I was seriously thinking about how to hand it back...

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Just as I was thinking seriously you ungrateful cow listen to yourself! 2 messages appeared in my inbox. 1 was from my best friend Dawn saying to me much the same thing and telling me to stop moaning and book my f******g 1 way ticket to Paris NOW and The second message was a number I didn't recognise, it was a friend of my mums who had asked for my number so she could contact me. All it said was; "Hi Karen, my name is Sharon and I work with your mum. I just wanted to say how fantastic your job offer sounds. You are a beautiful and talented young woman so follow your heart and do what is right for you". Much nicer than Dawns message ;) Dawn was right though I was thinking it myself I mean 1. Who wouldn't generally kill for the opportunity or the freedom to take it and 2. How self centred is it when the biggest problem you are facing in life at that moment is: do I move to Paris or don't I...?!
Oh what a world. So at the age of 31 i thought que sera sera (is there a French version of this? Je ne regrette rien?!) and typed out a message which said yes I'll take the job and senT it before I could change my mind!!!

So the last couple of weeks since I took this position have been spent trying to work out what to do with the 2 year UK contract I have just taken out on my new iPhone 4 (doh!). Opening a french bank account and how to keep paying UK direct debits when being paid in euros. Trying to find somewhere to live whilst I am in London then getting a moving date so I can think about getting all my stuff sent out to France plus the whole seriously this venture is going to BANKRUPT me, but that's a minor detail haha.

So far I have to thank the amazing Zoe out in ile de France who has helped me massively to the point I now have accommodation in the form of a house share in Condé-saint-libiaire (population 1500) for bending over backwards to help me, believing i am the schools prayers answered for a dynamic new sports teacher (not much to live up to then) putting me up for the interview, welcoming me into her home when I could have been a mad axe murderer and also for letting me play with her dogs and chickens and plying me with veal, champagne and red wine the other week. she is like my anglophone angel.

Anyway the next few weeks will be crazy, I am currently in the limbo that is 'sad to go but ready to move' as I say goodbye to my awesome clients (more like best friends) and pass them over to the very capable hands of Matt which means work will be getting quieter and quieter and I'll be stuck twiddling my thumbs a lot and thinking too much. I have even packed already! Already my thoughts are turning to the fact My diet is about to change drastically (they don't get wholemeal out there, my friends are currently delighting in the thought I am about to embark in something which will see me return fat as a house, one word guys:NEVER wishful thinking on your part haha) and I will be back living in the countryside again but that is absolutely nooooo problem really looking forward to it! Most important concern though is that i won't be able to just call my family and friends whenever I feel like it so got to overcome that but hey distance is nothing!!! Already said goodbye (well a bientot!) to mum and dad and best buddy Dawn til who knows when and i realise i may not see the big bro and niece til xmas but as they say in French ce n'est pas pour toujours and I have to suivre mon coeur... What's a little distance I'm not the other side of the world exactly.

Told you I have been thinking too much!

Anyways I have been sat in Starbucks using their wireless long enough this afternoon and I am actually suprised as typed this entire thing out on Matts iPad, get me being all modern! However as I am writing this on iPad there are lots of things I would like to do the appearance of the blog that I have yet to figure out how to do on this thing yet so apologies it does look a little bleak although did find a fancy Paris background for it! Anyway enough I gotta go:

Laters x