Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Barrot the Transport Guru

Well was I suprised to read about this little oversight. Imagine, a new European Commission line-up, just fresh out of a confrontation with the MEPs. Imagine the history of accusations of dodgy dealings by commissioners, promises to clean up the town, and the sacking of whistle-blowers. It's all juicy stuff. And then, the day after Parliament approves the new Commissioners, it just happens to come out that Monsieur Jaques Barrot was awarded an eight month suspended sentence for embezzlement. Given the French culture of flexibility in dealing with flung accusations such as this, the fact that this one stuck to one of the more important men in public life surely tells us something. Stroll on Jack.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Chaos of School Life

While we're on the subject of school, how disorganised is it possible to be? Have a look at France. Here is a typical school week for a friend of mine.

She has three sons.

One is in nursery school, mornings only as he builds up to full-time. The nursery school is open Monday, Tuesday, (NOT Wednesday) Thursday and Friday. School starts at 9:00am for him and finishes at 12:00. The nursery school is about 500m from the primary school.

The second boy is in primary school. The primary is open Monday, Tuesday, (NOT Wednesday) Thursday, Friday and 2 Saturday mornings out of 3. The free Saturdays are not regular, but are decided for each term around, (but not before) the beginning of term. School starts at 9:00am for him, and finishes at 4:30.

The third boy is in Secondary school. The secondary school is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday morning, Thursday, and Friday (NOT Saturday mornings). School starts at 8:00am and finishes at 5:00pm.

Add all that up, and even with school transport it is decidedly awkward. It's almost as if someone sat down and tried to creat the most stupid and inefficient way of organising the school day to inflict maximum inconvenience on anyone who wants to do anything apart from arrange their shopping and housework around school.

Of course this is France - 'traditional' roles expected of women anyway. BUT, my friend, and numerous others like her want and need to do other things. For many it's work. So add to the chaos above a breathtaking employer's attitude to part-time flexible hours and you have a recipe for a very unnecessary, stressful and ineffective life for many many women.

In this part of France, the local education authority has taken soundings from parents on if and how they would like the school week changed. They were at pains to point out that parents' views were at best incidental to their decision. I suppose that's honesty in some form. I can't wait to see what difference it will make to my friend's week.

I guess it at least it prepares the kids for French bureaucracy in later life - but that's another story...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The School Run

Like many places, France has spent the last twenty years closing its rural schools. So instead of walking to school, kids have to pile into the school bus. Fine so far.

Like many places, France has really got into road safety recently. They've discovered radar traps in a big way, they have road safety weeks, and they're getting tougher on drink driving. great stuff.

In particular, they've decided that seat belts are a 'good thing'. Unless that is you live in rural areas. A new law last year insists that everyone has to wear a seat belt on school buses, with certain exceptions. Basically, if you are a child, the organisers can get away with gross negligence even to the point of the death of a child with impunity.

The law's exceptions consider that kids travelling two to a seat without seat belts 15k into school on winding winter roads is OK. OK!! What are these people on? Can you imagine the damage to a three-year old flying through the inside of a minibus as it brakes even at 25 mph?

Great for a child-friendly country! It's complete pants, and yet those who have the moral rsponsibility and the opportunity to give every child a seat and a seat belt are so complacent it makes me wretch.

Go to the top, you say. Sort it out once and for all. Great idea...

The great Jaques Barrot, until recently President of the Haute-Loire and then ultimately responsible for school transport thinks it's OK! He thinks that this situation doesn't affect the security of the kids. He's so cool with this, HE EVEN WROTE IT DOWN IN A LETTER!

The big joke is that this guy is now deputy of the European Commission with the Transport Portfolio. I'm so not glad that the European Commission now has such a tight-fisted man of complacency with contemptable views on children's lives as a leader.

Please say a prayer for the children of rural France.

The Love Hate Thing

It's a great place, France. Don't get me wrong. I love it. But just now and again I need to get something off my chest. It makes me feel better, and then I can get on with loving the place again. I can't rant at my French wife, it doesn't make her feel better. (Although it works just as well for me!)

So this is it - France Rant - where I get it all off my chest.

Monday, November 01, 2004

ten things I can do a bit

Ten things I can sort of do a little bit but haven’t ever got very good at:

1. Playing rugby
2. Playing the guitar
3. Playing the didjeridu
4. Karate
5. Having money
6. Singing
7. Cooking
8. Drawing and Painting
9. Being depressed
10. DIY

ten things I'm rubbish at

Ten things I have tried at least once and I’m absolutely rubbish at:

1. Playing the piano
2. Fighting
3. Driving a tractor
4. Speaking Spanish
5. Speaking Japanese
6. Waltzing
7. Eating spaghetti
8. Drinking lots of beer
9. Skateboarding
10. Selling my lovely photos

ten things I could do better

Ten things I can sort of do quite well but would like to be better at:
1. Lead teams
2. Take photos
3. Cycle
4. Be a dad
5. Light a fire
6. Put out a fire
7. Write
8. Learn
9. Creating gardens
10. Be quiet and listen