Sunday, 29 June 2014

I love Irish Radio

I already know some people won't agree with this but I really think Irish radio is great for listening to music (and occasionally good funny programmes).

Trust me, it is way better than French radio, where each station has its own different audience and type of music. At least in Ireland, the generalist radio stations broadcast a wide range of music suitable to a broader range of listeners.

In France, you have the hip-hop station, the Hits stations, the oldies station or the pop-rock station. For me who has a lot of different tastes in music, I find Irish radio perfect. Where else would you hear the latest hit just after a good old Queen song? Not in France I tell you.

Maybe that's why I was never faithful to a radio station in France. I had to go from one to another constantly in order to find a decent song to listen to (and sing out loud in my car). My husband doesn't understand that at all. He listens to one and only radio station (FM104 if you're wondering). It doesn't matter if he hates the song, or there's an ad break, or the radio host is annoying, he will not change it. You can imagine the fights in the car...

When you're a foreigner, listening to radio is also one of the best way to learn the language (and especially local slang!). When I moved here 12 years ago and had a very long journey on the jammed M50 motorway every morning, Irish radio was there to keep me company. My station of choice back then was 98fm, and their breakfast show was just hilarious. Fair enough, I didn't get all the jokes at first, but listening to Irish presenters talking about Irish stuff made me understand a lot more about my new country and its people. 

If only there was more French music on Irish Radio stations ! I know, I can keep dreaming...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Making the most of the good weather

So apparently the heatwave is gone. But was it ever here ? I keep reading about how warm and sunny it was over the last couple of weeks, but come on, it was around 22 degrees most of the days. Surely we can't call that a heatwave, even for Irish standards! 

I have to admit, one day last week was a lot warmer than the others and I thought I was going to collapse with the heat. It was at least 27 or 28 degrees, and without air conditioning in the office or in the car, you can imagine how uncomfortable I felt (and by that I mean sweating like a pig of course).

 But hey, we're not going to complain, are we?  We took advantage of the nice weather to do a lot of outdoor activities. 

One of the days I went to the beach with the kids. This made me realise how Irish people go a bit mad when the sun comes out. When I say mad, I mean careless, especially with sun protection. There were definitely a lot of burnt people around...

On Saturday, we went to the Family fun day at Ciaran's school. There were bouncy castles for the kids and that's where we ended up spending most of the time. Try to get a child down a bouncy castle. Impossible task. 

I have to say, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I don't drop or collect Ciaran at school, so I don't really know anybody. And when I don't know people, I'm not the most talkative person of all. I noticed a few French parents but didn't engage in a conversation. Maybe I'm weird, but I don't feel the need  to meet other French people. I was never interested in joining the "Alliance Francaise" or meet-up with French. I came to Ireland to speak English, discover a new culture  and try to integrate in a new country.  Anyway, maybe those parents felt exactly the same as me because they didn't talk to us either. 

On Sunday, there was the National Sand Sculpture competition on the local beach. We could have entered as it's opened to anyone. Except I'm useless at building sandcastles. I never overcame the trauma I experienced as a child, when I was forced to participate in a sandcastle competition during summer camp. That's when I realised I had zero creativity when it comes to building things (or basically all visual arts that require the use of my hands). 

So I was happy enough admiring the beautiful works of art on display. Some of them were just amazing and my favourite ended up being the winner. The kids tried to built a few sandcastles; well, Ciaran was building and Ethan was destroying. Fabrice attempted to build something as well but I don't think he's ready for next year competition yet!

Winner of the competition with "There's no point crying over spilled Ice-cream"

Fabrice's masterpiece
Hope you all made the most of the good weather, as now the rain is starting again! So to finish off, here's a picture I found on Facebook that represents Irish summer perfectly:

Enjoy summer everyone !!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Never forget "the hand of frog"

The world cup is in full swing I have to say, I find it pretty exciting this year. I'm not a big football fan, but I do like cheering for my national team. And so far, France isn't doing too bad.

The good thing is, there is no fight in the house over which country to support because Ireland and Mauritius didn't make it to the tournament. Only Ethan keeps shouting "Come on Ireland" every time he sees a game on TV, but he's clearly too young to understand what's going on (or he really is more Irish than French, which is a possibility).

I'm actually disappointed that Ireland didn't qualify for the world cup as I think it's great to be able to cheer for more than one country, but at least they didn't qualify fair and square this time. I can't say the same about the last world cup qualifiers, when Ireland played France in 2009.

They have played against each other a few times and the atmosphere is usually friendly,  whatever the result. I generally find Irish people quite fair-play, and most of time I try to play it down if France wins. The last thing I want to do is to be perceived as the stereotyped arrogant French person.

But that 2009 match just changed everything. We were all watching the game at home, with my Irish neighbours. Everything was going well until Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand, before passing it on to another player who scored a goal, all that during extra-time. The game ended up in a draw, but France having won the first leg, went on to qualify for the World Cup instead of Ireland.

My first thought? They're going to kill me at work tomorrow. And I was right. Everybody was pissed off with Thierry Henry, and me being French, I was the next best thing they could be angry at. I don't think I ever got so much slagging in my life than that day, and the following day, and the one after that... And even now, I still get the occasional joke. Sometimes to cut an argument short my manager would just say : " I'll have two words for you : Thierry Henry"!

I genuinely felt bad for Ireland, I think the match should have been replayed but that's what you get when there's no video to help the referees, like in Rugby for example. The only thing that made me feel better for Ireland is that France did very poorly in that World cup, not even going through the first round. So they kind of got their revenge.

Since Thierry Henry doesn't play anymore, the jokes and the slagging have eased off a bit. But something happened last Saturday that re-opened the wound. Henry is now a commentator for the BBC and he was talking about the England game and some possible hand ball by an English player. When the presenter asked him as a joke " Ever got away with a handball?", he laughed and replied "No, never...".

This "joke" caused a bit of a fury amongst Irish fans in social media, and it made me realise that Irish people are still holding a grudge. This morning at work, I asked a colleague who he was supporting in the World cup:
" Since Ireland is not in, I'll probably support Germany"
" Seriously ? The Germans ??!! Come on, you should support France!"
" No way, that cheating b***** deprived us of the World Cup the last time!"
" It was 5 years ago, you have to let it go at some stage..."
" No. We, Irish people, forgive; but we NEVER FORGET"
If there is some sort of forgiveness, is it a step in the right direction? I hope so, because I don't think I'll be able to handle the slagging any longer!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Waiting for the holidays...

I can't wait to go on holidays and it seems this long deserved break is never going to come. I'm tired, worn out, and between neck pain, hay fever, flu and both kids also catching a bug I think I really need time off. 

I haven't had a "proper" holiday for more than a year, and the last time I was in France was nearly 18 months ago (although it was only for a few days and not in the best of circumstances). 

The last summer holiday we spent in France was 2 years ago, and we had a great time. It was without a doubt the best holiday we had in a long time. We caught up with friends a lot, and even got to spend a couple of days with my brother and sister (without the kids!) on a little island of the coast of Brittany. 

I think it's going to be hard to top that this year, but I keep fantasizing about how great our time home will be. The thing is, I don't want to keep my expectations too high either for  fear of disappointment. I was completely hyped up before going to Mauritius last year and unfortunately the holiday didn't live up to my expectations. Ethan was in the "going up and down the stairs" phase and I spent two weeks watching his every moves. I missed my brother in law's wedding ceremony because he wouldn't stay quiet in the church, so we ended up outside and he went up and down the stairs of the church for an hour. And there were a lot of other little things that didn't really go according to plan. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure some people experience holidays far worse than mine, but compared to the other vacations I spent in Mauritius, that one was definitely not the best.

Anyway, I hope this holiday at home will be worth it. I actually can't wait to do some French stuff, go to the boulangerie and buy fresh bread and croissants, visit the local market,  go the beach, drink wine and spend quality time with my friends and family. 

There's also a festival going on in my home town at the time we will be there and it's one of the reason why I chose to go in July. It's a traditional Breton festival and I just love the atmosphere and the buzz around the village at that time of the year. This event celebrates Breton culture, particularly with dance and music. There will be concerts, shows, and a big parade on the Sunday. Some of my cousins play traditional music in a Bagad (the equivalent of a pipe-band with an additional instrument, the "bombarde") and my best friend used to be in a Breton dancing group 

Bagad Cap-Caval

Traditional music and dance are quite popular in Brittany, even amongst young people. I was quite disappointed when I came to Ireland, because I thought it would be the same, but people here, at least in Dublin, seem to be  less interested in traditional Irish culture. Sure, shows like Riverdance are always sold out and you can listen to Irish music in Temple bar, but that's mainly for tourists. I'm sure it's a different story in the West of Ireland, and I realise I may have moved to the wrong part of the country!

I think the next two weeks are going to be very long...

Monday, 9 June 2014

Expressions I've been saying for a long time that are completely WRONG !

I'm going to sound like a pretentious bitch, but I think my English is pretty good. I'm fluent and even consider myself practically bilingual. I also hate spelling and grammatical mistakes. You should hear me shout at my computer when I receive an e-mail that says "It should of been delivered yesterday" or "It was a quite evening", or worse "It was a quiet quite evening". Seriously, if you can't make the difference between "quite" and "quiet", don't use them in the same sentence! Anyway, I hate making mistakes and I always ask for advice if I'm not sure how to spell a word, or how to write a sentence that makes sense in proper English.

But from time to time, I still use expressions that are wrong. Except nobody tells me. Until someone does. And then I feel stupid, and wonder: Why has nobody told me this before ?  How have I been talking like that for more than 10 years without anybody correcting me? The thing is, I'd rather have someone telling me I'm making a mistake than letting me look like a fool.

So here it is, a little collection of expressions I have used for a long time that I really shouldn't have...

"I just have to make you sign" ( or any other action for that matter)

In my job, I have to get people to sign stuff very often. But only recently was I told I cannot make anybody do anything, unless I'm threatening them... So I've been threatening A LOT of customers for the past few years.  And I feel bad now. Maybe they're all scared of me and don't dare saying anything...
The thing is, it's a direct translation from French, and that's probably the reason why I use it. 

"I'm going to eat cereals"

That sentence just looks fine, doesn't it? I used to say that when I was pregnant with my first child. I had cravings for Special K (I know, the cereal that's supposed to make help you lose weight) and I was eating at least 5 bowls a day. Apparently, I can't say "Cereals"  in the plural form, it can only be singular.
Again, that's  a direct translation from French 

"Month vs Months" and other unpronounceable words

This one is probably the least serious offence of them all, but I think it just irritates my colleague. So I will have to work on it. Basically, I can't pronounce "month", and I keep putting an "s" sound at the end, like if I was saying it in the plural form, although I'm only talking about one month. Come on, the "th" sound is quite hard for a foreigner to say, it's even harder when it's at the end of the word, so give me a break! 
I also can't pronounce "developmental" , or "asylum"...

"Just stay here, I'm going to put my son down and I come back"

Of course, I was going to put my son in his cot, for his nap. Little did I know it meant I was going to kill him. I wasn't told it was wrong straight away though, so I suspect some people think I'm a baby killer .  
I've just researched it online, and it seems I can say "put down"in that situation, so is it just an Irish thing? I may have to investigate further...

I find it scary that I got away with making errors like these ones for so many years. Maybe that's how there are so many misunderstandings when you learn a foreign language and have conversations with the locals... Well, I guess it's all part of adapting to a new country.

Have you ever experienced the same problems when speaking in a different language? How do you feel about people correcting you ? And do they actually do it or just let you make mistakes ?

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Reality Of Missing Out

The cousin's reunion I couldn't be there for

Do you know FOMO, The Fear Of Missing Out ? Well, last week-end, I just experienced ROMO (I've just made that acronym up by the way) the Reality Of Missing Out. It wasn't nice.

As an expat, I have often missed out on family or friends events happening in my home country. I missed birthdays, weddings, communions, births, christenings, funerals, you name it.  
I often had to choose carefully which event I wanted or had to take part in and plan yearly holidays around them. It doesn't help that my husband's family lives on the other side of the world either. 

Last week end, I missed out on a very important family event. I knew it was taking place and knowing I couldn't be there was just killing me. All my cousins got together for a week-end. There was food, drinks and probably lots of laughter. We are a big family, I have lots of cousins and we get on really well. 

This cousins reunion had been announced a few months ago, but as I had already planned the holidays in July, and it wasn't during a school break, we couldn't make it. We also didn't have enough money to go back home just for a week end. I knew I was going to miss it and was gutted, but there was nothing I could do (except maybe win the lotto, which sadly, didn't happen).

On Friday evening, my sister started to post pictures on Facebook and although I wanted to be happy for her and all of them, I just felt sad and I really knew I was missing out on something phenomenal. There are a few crazy people in my family, ones you know will make a party unforgettable, so it was quite painful thinking I could have been there and enjoy all this madness.

On Saturday I felt a bit better. I was planning a little girls night out of my own, with a friend. I went shopping for a nice outfit (Yeah, I don't go out very often, so I had to find something half-decent to wear), and that's when my sister rang me.

I wasn't expecting the call at all. She actually rang when I was driving so I told her to ring me back a few minutes later. During that time, I felt weird. I didn't really want to talk to her or anybody who was at the party. I might be crazy, but I felt that if I was missing out on that big reunion, I just didn't want to be part of it at all. It's quite hard to explain, but it's difficult enough being far away, I didn't want to only be " half there" (if that makes sense). 

After the call, I had mixed emotions. I was happy I heard everybody, I was sad I couldn't be present and enjoy the week-end. And I kind of wished my sister didn't ring me. I would maybe have been happy enough with seeing pictures on Facebook. I was there with them, for a brief moment, and I wasn't. It was like being caught in the middle. It was such a weird feeling.

That night, I went out and had a great time. I even went a bit wild !! Maybe I did go crazy to compensate for the party I missed with my cousins.

One thing for sure, we probably all had the same hangover the following day !!!