Monday, 30 June 2008

Le Secourisme

Sophie acting as a mother making crêpes

At Sophie's class presentation on Saturday we were treated to a first aid lesson. As their vélo citoyen project they had taken the message of first aid and the performance was made up of little scenarios covering the treatment of common injuries. When they originally performed it for the visiting school, Sophie's only part was to ask a question in the quiz at the end. But on Saturday, because some kids were away, Sophie got a bigger speaking part. She played the role of a mother making pancakes who leaves the pan unattended. Of course a child badly burns her hand on the pan while trying to copy her mother, and we learn about the treatment of burns. Sophie also had to double as the person on the end of the phone when the emergency number is called. At the end there was a huge round of applause, and I think much of it was for speaking so clearly in French.
Afterwards there were presentations to the teachers, and drinks with chips outside in the undercover area, where we could look at the posters the class had made about their vélo citoyen project.

Sophie with her teacher Gwanaelle

Last Saturday of School

The children had their last Saturday morning at school last week. When school resumes in September there will be no more school on Saturday mornings.
On Saturday Bonnie had school as usual, but with sport (learning rugby), while Odette had a singing concert for parents and Sophie's class put on a little performance and display about their vélo citoyen project.

The children at l'école maternelle at La Flachere, performing for parents

Happy memories: the parents' view of the performance

All the kids in the three classes at Odette's school (3 1/2 to 6 1/2 year-olds) sang some little songs sitting on benches (tall ones at the back standing) in their gym room. Odette was sitting in the second row so I could hardly see her, and neither could I hear her very well - I'm sure she wasn't singing as loudly as she has been singing at home!

Odette, sitting in the second row

After the singing the children each had a long-stemmed rose to present to their teacher. That was a great idea as each child got to present a flower, and the teachers ended up with a big bunch. Then everyone filed outside for a drink and some lovely looking (didn't try one!) chocolate treats.

I wanted her to pose for me, but Odette's friends dragged her off to play!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Les Soldes

Lots of French women went shopping last week, for the summer sales ("les soldes"). I'm getting right into the culture so, on Friday morning while Roger was off with some mates, I did as the French do and took myself for an outing. It was the best shopping experience I have had. A friend had recommended a store called Kiabi as a place I might find a good selection of clothes in larger sizes. And she was right. Usually I struggle to find something to fit properly, out of a decent fabric, at a reasonable price. But here there was plenty of choice.. Why choose? Why not get them all? Hugh slept in the pusher for most of the time I was at Kiabi, which made it easy to try things on. There were plenty of change cubicles, and the staff were really helpful. I would recommend this store!
And what luck; there was a shoe store just nearby!

Le Handball

Boys playing handball (SMA in white)

Girls from Sophie's class (in white) playing handball

I had never seen a game of handball before. Handball is the sport the children from Sainte Marie d'Alloix play in the winter months, but the season had nearly finished when we arrived. On Friday evening there was a special handball challenge among neighbouring schools, on the sports ground just below our house. The local Sainte Marie d'Alloix teams had lovely T-shirts with the team name on. They looked the best, but they didn't win any of the cups on offer.

From what I can gather, handball is sort of a mix of soccer and basketball. The goals are like soccer goals, and each team has a goal keeper. Players throw, catch and dribble like basketball. The ball is smaller, so it is easy to handle with one hand. Handball is an olympic sport, so I'm sure I'll see some more of it before long.
After the kids had played their competition, the parents had a chance to show their skills. The adults game was much faster than the kids' games had been. Pretty hard to catch a photo...

Parents' handball challenge...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Don't Touch!

Don't touch the wire

That's why...

Sometime kids just have to find out for themselves...
Luckily the electricity going through the fence between our house and the cow paddock next door is not very strong.

Sharing it Around

Hugh and Odette seem to be better after their illnesses, but this morning Sophie didn't go to school. Was it too much birthday party yesterday afternoon, was it because she had to recite a poem at school? Or was it, most likely, that she has the same bug that the others have had? She took some medicine (a miracle - Sophie NEVER takes medicine) so she must have been feeling quite unwell. She took some more at lunch time and has gone to school this afternoon. I hope she gets to recite the poem because she has practised it very well.

And now Roger - he has had a salt gargle for a sore throat, and I found him sitting down with a thermometer in his mouth! (I found the thermometer in the house so it belongs to the Marcoux family. As they are French, and the French do things differently from us, I wondered where they stick the thermometer to measure their temperature...) Anyway, now Roger is lying down in the middle of the afternoon, telling himself he is not sick. Tomorrow he has a walk planned with two local blokes, on the "dent de Crolles". Saturday morning he has been invited to go up the mountain to walk the cattle up to the "alpages" (mountain pastures). No wonder he doesn't want to be sick!

And neither do I!!!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Doctors' Wallets

I've often heard the saying "fuller than a doctor's wallet", but it has never made sense literally until now. I have been well and truly lining the local doctor's wallet.
The first time I visited the doctor he wrote out a prescription (it seems you can't go to a doctor without getting at least a couple of prescriptions) and then gave me a receipt ( I thought it was funny to get the receipt before I had paid, but he said I might need it for insurance). When I thanked him and got up to leave he told me politely that I had to pay first. I am used to paying a lady at the counter out the front, by just handing over my credit card. And sometimes in Australia, depending on what the consultation is for, we are not charged at all, but "bulk billed".
Embarrassed, I handed over the 25 euros, which he slid into his wallet. Just like that, getting fatter all the time!
Now I have been to the doctor's rooms plenty of times, first for me with tendinitis in my shoulder, then for Hugh's vaccinations, and more recently with sick kids.
Yesterday, instead of going on Odette's school excursion, which we had both been looking forward to, I had to stay home and take Hugh to the doctor. During the night we got quite concerned about him as his respiration rate was quite elevated. I was scared he was getting asthma like Odette has had.
But the diagnosis was "un angine". Tonsillitis. With some medication he has perked up considerably so this morning all he wanted to do was go outside to play with his ball.

Hugh, much better thank you!

But this morning Odette had a fever. Tonsillitis?? Another trip to the doctor, and the diagnosis of "un pharyngite" (I think that basically means a sore throat).

La Famille Aulanger

Eating outside with the Aulanger family

The family of Mathilde, one of Sophie's penfriends, had a surprise visit from us on Sunday afternoon. We had taken a picnic lunch with us when we dropped Jeff at the airport, but rang Mathilde's family hoping they would be home. We had never met them before, but when I looked on Google earth to find the airport I realised it was not far from their place. Only 15 minutes in fact...
They were very welcoming, despite the short notice we gave them!
Unfortunately after we'd only been there about ten minutes I realised Hugh was not just hot from the car, but he in fact had a temperature. Mathilde's mum graciously played nurse, getting a thermometer, a cold wet flannel, some paracetamol, and putting a blanket in the shade for Hugh.

Poor Hugh, suffering from a fever

Sophie is usually shy at first when she meets new people, but she seemed loud compared to her penfriend. Mathilde is very shy. I know I used to be shy, so I wonder if that is what I was like when I was ten years old (I'll have to ask my mother.) Anyway Sophie didn't have to talk much, as Mathilde didn't talk at all.
Some games don't need much talking, so Mathilde's little sister Clemence got out a board game to play. It was a really good game for kids to play, and it was educational for Sophie. I'd like to find one to have here - it was a game about taxis in Paris, and each player was a taxi driver. They had to pick up a card which gave a description of the client and their destination, with options for bonus fare points for doing things on the way (like passing three boulangeries). What a great way to study a map of Paris and discover some famous roads and landmarks.

Sophie with Clemence (left) and Mathilde, (her penfriend, right)
played a board game about taxis in Paris

Bonnie and Odette were happy to find some different
playmobile characters and a house to play with

Next time we go to visit we will give them more notice, and we hope to see them here one day too.

Farewell Jeff

"I don't want to go-o-o..."

Jeff left on Sunday morning, so we drove him to the Grenoble airport. The airport is a long way from Grenoble, presumably because they had to go 45kms before some flat ground could be found to build it on. Once again we appreciated the services of Tom-Tom (our GPS) to find our way to our destination.
Jeff was a little sad to leave because he insisted his stay here was the HIGHLIGHT of his entire trip. He loved meeting the locals, playing pétanque, and walking/riding in the mountains. But he had to go, despite his friend's email asking us to keep him here. Actually I don't think we could keep up with his pace for too long...

Summer Party

Party in the garden, before sunset

On Saturday evening we went to the house of some neighbours for a party to celebrate the start of Summer. I have only recently met Annie and Thierry, so was surprised and delighted when they invited us to their party. We met lots of new people, including their three grown-up children, which was lovely.

After the sun has gone down

Our genial hosts

Annie had the garden looking beautiful, with lights and candles placed around and the furniture arranged to give it a party atmosphere. They had the music system hidden in the garden shed, and nice food to keep our tummies satisfied.
The children enjoyed paying in the garden, and they invented a sheep shearing game where the sheep (littlest kids) had to be rounded up by the dog (bigger kid) and shorn (by the biggest). It kept them happy until they started falling asleep.
We had been promised a surprise by one of the guests, but unfortunately Bonnie was asleep before he set up his telescope, so she didn't get to see Jupiter and its four moons.
It turned out to be another very late night for everyone.


Summer officially started on June 21 (Saturday), but the summer weather started on Thursday. I hate the heat and tend to hibernate when the weather gets too hot outside. There is an air-conditioner on the main level in our house, which does a good job of cooling me down.
Sophie has taken to having a shower in her underwear and then putting her clothes back over the top (or not) as she says that makes her feel fresh.
There are shutters on the front windows which can keep the sun out in the morning; and in the evening if we open the windows downstairs and the windows up the top of the house we get a good airflow through the house, even there is no such thing as a breeze.
The big family car is air-conditioned, but not the little VW (I don't think I've ever had a car without air-conditioning before), so I will take the big one when it is very hot. Although the air-conditioning works well in the front of the car the kids complain about it being hot in the back. I told them that when I was little air-conditioning wasn't invented and I didn't complain! Next time we go on a long trip I will take a bottle of water and some flannels for them to keep cool with...

Monday, 23 June 2008


Who is giving advice to whom?

Hugh counting the boules

Do they look like they know what they are doing?

Pétanque on Friday night

No such thing as lawn bowls here! Pétanque is the game played on a Friday evening in the village. It is quite a bit less physical than soccer (okay, football) but no less skilful I am told. Roger has bought a cheap set of boules (the bowls used to play pétanque) and he had Jeff out on the back lawn practising before the game on Friday night.
Jacky, the taxidermist, joined with Roger and Jeff to make up an "Australian" team, which played "France". As the team captain, Jacky seemed to be more interested in pouring the drinks than directing his fellow team members. Roger has decided he needs to work on his smash, because that seems to be the tactic that makes the difference.

Vendredi Soir BBQ

How many French men does it take to chop a piece if wood??

The blazing bbq, with Jeff and Roger

A variety of sausages - where are all the mutton chops and beef steaks?

The BBQ which had been postponed several times finally eventuated on Friday evening. The official bit about the opening didn't eventuate, although there were drinks and snacks the week before.
A local handyman had made up a bbq out of a 200 litre drum, and the best thing about it was that it had legs! Apparently last year everyone had to kneel or bend down to cook their sausages because the bbq had no legs, so the new model was much appreciated.
Like all public bbqs, the fire doesn't get lit until the children are well and truly starving. But after they had been running around playing with the other kids for a while I think they forgot that they were hungry. Except Sophie, who started on the "tarte aux pommes" that I had made for dessert.


Thursday Drive

A view of the distant snow

Jeff and Roger posing with views behind

Jeff really had to search for superlatives when we went driving in the mountains on Thursday. The views, the snow on the mountains, the mountain air, the mountains, etc etc. We drove up to a ski station which would be bustling with activity in winter. Now, on a week day at the start of summer, it was deserted apart from a few workmen doing maintenance, and a herd of cows. We heard the cows before we saw them, as several cows in each herd wear bells around their necks. They were happily grazing under the out-of-use ski-lift in the middle of the ski station.
We would have like to have taken a walk up to the top of the ski lift on one of the runs, but time was not on our side, because we had to get back in time for the school bus.
Cows grazing below a ski lift

Wednesday Walk

Sainte Marie du Mont from above

Roger and Bonnie pause to enjoy the scenery

Jeff and Roger

Because there is no school on Wednesdays it is a good time to have a birthday party or to go for a walk in the mountains.
In this case Odette was invited to a birthday party at Sainte Marie du Mont, and Roger and Bonnie took Jeff for a mountain walk.
The birthday party was at a pony riding place, so that was fun for the kids. Odette said she only fell off twice, and it was the pony's fault because it bent down to eat some grass.
Roger and Jeff said Bonnie was a very good walking companion.
The weather was lovely for such outdoor pursuits.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

First Aussie Visitor

Our Australian visitor, Monsieur Jeff.

We had our first Australian visitor this week. Jeff Conrades, from near Bunbury, graced us with his presence from Tuesday until Sunday. He had been travelling through Ireland and western areas of the UK, and then spent some time with friends in Holland before coming to France. During his time in Ireland and the UK he travelled by bicycle, doing about 1,400kms in the five or six weeks that he was there; so needless to say he was pretty fit and trim by the time he arrived at our place.
Jeff marvelled at the mountain views, and we took him for a drive up to where there are some ski stations. Of course there is no snow now, but instead there were cows, spending their summer in the "alpages". He was absolutely astounded by the mountains, the roads, the snow (only high on the peaks at this time of year), the villages, and on and on and on. So is that what we were like when we first got here?? Everything was new and fascinating but now we just take the mountains, and all that they entail, in our stride.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Mummy or Mamie

Hugh with his Mummy, not Mamie

The French word for "Mummy" is "Mamie". When my kids are calling "Mummy" with their Australian accents it sounds extremely like the French Mamie.
Of course I have been mistaken for the kids' grandmother before, after all I am old enough to be their grandmother...
But at least in France strangers could be excused for the mistake.
Hugh is now quite good at saying "Maman" (mummy in French) so it should now be clear that I am his mother.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Le Chapeau

Odette modeling my new hat

French women don't seem to wear hats. Or at least if they do I don't know where they buy them from. I have seen a few basic straw hats in a couple of shops, but not the beautiful kind of hat that I was looking for. I love wearing hats, for both winter and summer, and you'll see that I am wearing one in my profile photo.
When I came to France in winter I didn't want to bring a summer hat, and thought that if I didn't bring one it would give me the chance to buy a very chic French hat. (Any excuse to buy a hat!!) Maybe I haven't looked in the right shops (OK, I haven't been to Paris yet), but even an internet search proved pretty fruitless.
I ended up buying a hat off e-bay. And it is exactly the same as one I had in Australia a couple of summers ago, but a different colour.
So much for French Chic...

Not Suitable For Children??

A neighbour told me he tried to look at my blog, but was blocked by the parental control on his internet browser. He had to turn off the security feature so he could look at the blog.
What have I said that would be picked up by a net nanny?
Has anyone else had a problem with this??
Would it have anything to do that with the fact that he is browsing in French? Does the parental control work across languages?
Who knows?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bon Fête Papa!

Today was Fathers' Day in France.

I hope your kids were much better behaved than ours were. I don't think they could have been more awful if they had tried.

I guess that's what you get after such a big day yesterday...

Air Strike

Some of the planes in the sky today...

Aeroplanes filled the sky near Sainte Marie d'Alloix today.
And I got shots of some of the pilots, below.

It was a remote-controlled aeroplane competition, with competitors from far and wide descending on our little village. We have often seen the club holding meetings, but have never ventured too close before. This time we were treated to a real spectacle, as we were there at the end of the day when the trickiest sections are flown. It was the "limbo" where competitors get five minutes in which to fly, and they have to swoop under a line which seemed to be strung about 3 to 4 metres off the ground as many times as possible. This lead to quite a few crashes near the limbo line, and probably less than half of the planes in each heat actually flew for the full five minutes.
In a couple of weeks the local club is holding an open day to give kids a chance to fly a plane. Roger is planning to be a kid for the day!!

Losing Odette

After a fun day at Walibi everyone was very tired. We headed back to our bus, but on the way stopped to see a show with the larger-than-life Walibi and several of his creature friends performing for children on a stage. We just caught the end of the show (but we'd missed the sea-lion show completely) and it was already past 4pm, which was our rendez-vous time. Odette and Bonnie wanted to go and see the creatures, but I said that we had better go as we didn't want to hold up the departure of the bus and besides, there were so many little kids in there they wouldn't be able to get near to any of them. Then someone else remembered they had forgotten their back-pack so we waited while she ran back and got it, and then hurried out of the park to the bus, waiting (with at least 20 others) in the car-park. Everyone was having a drink and snack before they got on the bus so I got something out for the kids.
A banana for Odette. Where is Odette? Has anyone seen her? I looked on the bus in case she had already got on. Not there. Had she gone to the toilet with someone else? Unlikely. Was she sitting with another group? Has anyone seen Odette? "ODETTE!"
Did she come out of the park with us? Nobody could remember. Think. Can't remember. Surely I was holding her hand? I don't know.
I started hurrying back to the park entrance, hand on my chest. Esther said she would come with me. Then she stopped. What? Somebody else was on their mobile phone... Bérengère has got Odette. She was in the last of our groups coming out of the park, and Odette ran up to her. She had been by herself in the park. Safe, Thank God!
A few tears, a brave face, lots of cuddles with Mum, and Odette was alright.
She fell asleep cuddled up to me in the bus on the way home. I fell asleep too.
What a day.

Now the girls can't wait to go back to Walibi and take Dad!!


The children posing with the park mascot "Walibi"

The girls and I Went to Walibi, a fun park about an hour away, for the day on Saturday. And what a day it was, absolutely packed with fun and excitement. We went with a group of people from Sainte Marie d'Alloix - a bus full of kids and some adult supervisors. It was an outing that the young people had been raising money for for months, and was supported by the Mairie, so it only cost us 10 euros per child.
I was allocated a group of 5 and 6-year-olds to supervise along with the mother of one of the other girls.

A very sedate ride in a fibreglass "wallaby"

We started off on quite sedate rides — a merry-go-round, a little steam train puffing through the park, a boat ride which became less sedate as we got deeper into the created jungle and wild beasts became monsters, a huge spider jumped down in front, and a cascade of water rocked the boat. Our group ended up joining with Sophie's group as some of the younger kids didn't want to be apart from their mothers, who were supervising Sophie's group. That's why the rides got scarier. The roller coaster, which I wouldn't have gone on only Odette is under 120cm tall so needed to be accompanied, was the one that made me lose my appetite. I'm glad we went on that before lunch and not after, although I nearly had to stay on it. The supervisor thought I wanted another turn — but I only stayed on because I couldn't get out! I was stuck and the safety bar wouldn't unlatch. Odette could easily slip out, but not I. The supervisor brought a spanner, but I don't think she knew what to do with it and was no help. Onlookers were very helpful telling me to put this leg out, put both legs out, try going that way, etc etc. in moves reminiscent of a game of Twister. But now is as good a time as any to acknowledge my child-bearing hips (ok then, obesity) as I remained stuck. Then one of my friends got behind the bar and pushed, which moved it just far enough to let me slip out. To a huge round of applause. Talk about embarrassing!!!

After lunch the water park section was open, so we went and pretended it was summer (the weather was cool and there was a slight breeze) and frolic in the "heated" water. The water temperature was meant to be 20 C, which still felt extremely cold to me. The water park had scary looking slides, and I thank Sophie for making me go on the smallest of the four so that I could experience it. I am certainly no dare-devil (yes I'm a wuss) and I can't understand why people pay money to do those rides. There was something for all ages from the very shallow pool with life-like turtles and tiny slides, to the deeper one that was decorated with crocodiles and had slides that we more fun and surprising, to the wave pool that was like a beach and created real waves.

Fun in the wave pool

Watch out for the crocodile...

Sunbathing on a crocodile!

Bathing beauties — Sophie (left), Odette (front), Bonnie (right),
with their friends Noémie and Eloise.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Allez les Bleus!

Roger watching football on TV

Roger played the part of a real French man last night. He went down to the village in the evening and played petanque. Then by 9pm the place was deserted, as everyone had gone home to watch France play the Netherlands in the Euro Cup Football competition (soccer for Aussies). So Roger sat and watched the game too. But he probably didn't suffer as much as a real French man would, watching his team get trounced 4-1. France is now in a desperate situation and must win their next game to remain in the competition.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Sophie warming up




The athletics carnival, which had been postponed from last week, was held yesterday. There were five schools from the area competing. Each school was organised into teams of between four and nine children, and they competed in a "triathlon" - jumping (either triple jump or long jump), throwing (vortex) and running (60m) - in the morning and a relay (4 x 60m) in the afternoon.

Click here to see the Picasa Web Album of the athletics carnival at Pontcharra.

Relay (Sophie obscured)

She didn't really win a trophy, but her friends let her pose with it!