Our French Life, our relocation life

Top Tips For Travelling By Car In France

This article was written by me on my previous website The 1970s Diet and is so darn good and comprehensive that I have shared it for you here. Whilst this guide is written with families in mind, in particular, my friend who is travelling for the first time – I feel it’s applicable to anyone wishing to have a road trip this year.

We have been travelling to France since our eldest was 6 (he’s now 11), my youngest 4 and Buddy who was 3 months old on his first European holiday.  I have flown before when our eldest was 18 months old which was a horrific experience which I’ve written about in this post. I still cannot talk about it. It still haunts us some 10 years on! This blog post also details our very first trip to Brittany, France and how we totally under estimated the sheer size of the country compared to the UK.
Continue reading “Top Tips For Travelling By Car In France”

Our French Life, Our Review Life

A Week In Normandy Itinerary Overload!

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Okay, when people come over for a visit it can be tricky to decide where to send them. This is because there is so much to choose from. People don’t come to Normandy for the weather. If you do then I’m sorry to have to break it to you  – you’re gonna need a refund. As I type it’s torrential rain just in time for the school run. Yes, we do see the sun and it can be glorious but this year and the back-end of last has been particularly dire. Now I have it on good authority that the Dordogne has been awful as well. Edit – today has been glorious! Continue reading “A Week In Normandy Itinerary Overload!”

Our French Life, Our School Life

Master Normandy Gets Into Trouble

When a school phones me about one of my troops, I don’t expect it to be anything other than child sickness. Well you don’t with my lot.  I don’t want to show boat or anything but they’re never been in much trouble at school. I’ve never sat in the Head’s office discussing my child’s behaviour. They’re well behaved at school (can’t say the same at home!) and if I ever got a phone call from the school – it was to say one of them had thrown up.

Now, I’ve got to be honest Master Normandy is my first born and for years I was fiercely protective of him, especially when he went off to school for the first time.

I even gave up my career to stay at home to look after him (no great hardship I had a ball!) as I couldn’t bear the thought of a 17-year-old, still recovering from the night before, taking care of him. Oh and the fact that it would have cost £50 per day and that was back in 2004.

me and nathan
I love this picture – my hair looks fab-u-lous – oh and that’s the boy wonder!

He was always such an easy child to deal with and as a baby he was into everything! I had to follow him around everywhere. He was just so curious, so much so you could be in a tiny tot gym environment, where all the toddlers were balancing on beams etc and he was looking for the exit to see what was beyond the door.

However, he was also incredibly quiet especially around adults. He would not say boo to a goose. For instance, if I were to say can you tell your teacher “X”, there was no way he would do that as it made him very anxious.

Even now, when an adult speaks to him, he doesn’t immediately reply and when he does he tends to look down, shifts from one foot to another and it can come across as a bit rude. He does find the whole bisous difficult and remembering to say “Bonjour” before you ask anything. There is an etiquette here in France. As in the UK it can come across as arrogant if you’re social skills aren’t how they should be. He’s probably on some spectrum for something somewhere but we just tell him to try remember to do these things.

alan sugar
Alan Sugar – image The Apprentice

I suppose for a long time I spoke for him as I just knew he wouldn’t do it himself. When he was in his first year of reception another child (very troubled who did leave the school) would pinch his wooly hat and run away, draw on his jumper and punched him in the face – he wouldn’t say anything to a teacher.  So I used to sort stuff out for him.

As time went on, I realised the error of my ways (by about Year 4) and tried to make him more independent.

I digress. I always do.

So the Head Teacher of his college phoned my husband this week. I was out with my sisters about to have a nice coffee in a cafe. Remember that cafe culture? That illusive aim of mine living here in France? In fact, maybe I need to rename this blog – “Searching For The Cafe Culture?” My husband said you have to go in – there is a problem with Master Normandy. I raced over to his school thinking it was his broken ribs. A reasonable assumption I’d say.  I saw my precious first born swagging around like some kind of celebrity in the playground. Puzzled about this he approached me and said “don’t worry mum it was only the once it’s fine.” Say what?

Turns out my unassuming quiet child had been selling sweets and coca cola, for a profit, to his classmates with his friend. I was confident that this had been my son’s idea as he’s a keen entrepreneur. He has always enjoyed Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice and is always thinking of his next business venture. He always wanted to have ‘yard sales’ (too much American telly) and what not.

However, he would have known that doing this in a school environment, was a big no no. Firstly you have children who may not have enough money, then there’s the Head’s/school reputation, the trust of the parents who are assuming their child isn’t eating junk and don’t get me started on the “what if’s?” with regard to an allergic reaction.

Not only that, this is Private fee paying Catholic school, I mean could it get any worse? Great. Oh and to add to matters turns out this is illegal – naturally my son wouldn’t be Siret registered to sell goods etc and the police could have been called. Nice. A criminal record at age 14 #bravo.

tuck shop
Remember The Tuckshop?

Anyhow, I had to go and see the Head Teacher. A lovely man who runs a great school in my opinion. Oh the walk of shame. I can understand French pretty well and can convey myself in a fairly pigeon manner but the school had asked, that the English teacher, sit on in the meeting. A nice consideration I thought.

So there we all were, my sister as well (dreaming of her promised hot chocolate in a cafe) listening to the Head Teacher tell my son to wipe the smirk off his face – this was serious. This is a coping mechanism but it soon turned to tears.

I have to say I did feel so disappointed that he had done this. Firstly, we are opening ourselves up to racist comments. Here are “l’anglais” selling junk food to French children and taking a profit. I mean how does that look? It’s no different to people in the UK who complain of too many foreigners taking up resources in school (by the way those children tend to do better than the locals) and coming over here claiming benefits. It wasn’t good. Imagine your UK parent hearing that a group of Eastern Europeans had been selling stuff at school? Do you think they would say “oh how entrepreneurial of them”? Nope. Me neither.

Plus after the #truckgate and #ribsgate and car always being in the #garagegate. I really could have done without #schoolgate. The punishment was a mark in his carnet (school book) and a written letter of apology. Thankfully, the X isn’t too serious as there was talk of it affecting a Lycee accepting him. His educational career finished before it even took off. The Head Teacher was very fair.

Later that evening our son, who has started to get a bit too sure of himself, (maybe it’s the freedom he has here) was pulled back into line and reminded how serious it was.  He was also able to get stuff of his chest i.e the pain from his broken ribs, feeling less motivated and missing competing and training on his bike. He felt burnt out with all the effort he has put in – an incredible effort at that – he’s 6 out of 28 in his class and came with no French.  He is still on target to get the best mark “tres bien” in his Brevet. He just needs to stay on the rails. It’s now that teens start to feel all the pressure, just when their hormones start to change. I mean it really is the worse timing but it is the same for all teens. Survival of the fittest and all that.

I know it was, on the face of it, a bit of harmless entrepreneurial fun but the bigger picture was quite different. Now, the mother of the other boy thinks my son is a feckless bad influence and won’t be allowed to see his closest friend. This is small town living and quite different problems compared to London living. Only this week 2 lads were stabbed in Croydon town centre at 5pm and numerous stabbings and killings are rife across London at the moment. I find it incredibly sad and have no answers.

What this has taught me is I don’t want to have a small town mentality. I don’t want to have lived here so long that minor tittle-tattle (not this school incident) i.e banal gossip even scratches the surface with me. As the majority of it is really small fry compared to what the majority who live in large towns have to put up with. I don’t want to lose part of my identity and have no appreciation to global matters elsewhere.

I know what my son did was wrong but it has to be put into prospective. He had his phone taken away. He doesn’t have an X-box so we couldn’t take that away – my thoughts on those are written here. In my view, they are more toxic than anything else and parents hand these to their children on a plate. I felt that 2 broken ribs, no phone and being judged as a bad influence and god knows what else was enough punishment to fit the crime. Wouldn’t you say?

Here’s hoping to get to half term without anymore drama? What are my chances?

Until next time….