Sunday, May 27, 2007

A groupie's tale

The magnificent memorial at Vimy ridge

The sacrificied soldier

'Mother Canada' mourning her lost sons

Looking out over the land

Flags fluttering in the breeze in front of the memorial - it's damn hard to get them fluttering appropriately I tells you!

Yes, first I was a 'tagger', now my unofficial job title is 'groupie'... I know you've all been feverishly awaiting the results of my first expedition leading a tour of 38 children from the ages of 11-15 and 4 teachers. Happy to report, things have gone pretty well. I've entertained them with crepe night and a disco, led them fearlessly around northern France and returned with all children intact, way to go me!

Yesterday it was up and out to a cheese farm, to discover the intricacies of cheese making. I swear, by the time I've finished this job I WILL know how every product of northern France is manufactured. I wish this blog came with smellovision, so you could experience hundreds of strong stinky French cheeses trapped in a small, dank underground cave - quite an experience. I was hugely impressed with myself during this visit, as the kids had to split into two groups, one with their French teacher translating the spiel about cheese, one (poor unfortunates) with me translating. And if I do say so myself, I was positively on fire. It was, I admit, fortunate that the farm worker knew the English for 'rennet', 'curds' and 'whey' because I barely know what those things are in English, let alone French. After the tour of the cellar, the cheese making facilities (do you know they milk in the morning and the cheese is formed within three hours? So fast!) and the barn, it was time for a gourmet three course lunch, gratuit of course. Cheese tart like thing, chicken and then a weird but quite nice cross between a cheesecake and a custard slice for dessert. And tastings of the farm's cheese - strong, but good. And unpasteurised, so if I'm struck down with whatever strikes down people who eat unpasteurised stuff (Dad?) you'll know who's responsible. Oh, and also for Dad's information, we were about 20 mins from Agincourt - or Azincourt as it is these days.

After the cheese farm, it was across to the coast to visit Bagatelle theme park. Again, not bad getting paid to visit a fun park, especially since I didn't even have to stick with the kiddies. I went on a few rides, but I guess fun parks aren't quite the same over the age of... say, 15. I was freaked out of going on the rollercoaster by some manic French guy who got right in my face and tried to get me to accompany him on the ride (they were of the sort where two people had to occupy one car, with the back one's legs around the front one - think Rainbows End log flume - which is something like Tch'Plou! in French hee hee). When I said I didn't understand him, his response was not to speak slower or louder or anything of the sort, but merely to begin mouthing the words in French and making hand gestures. Since when is mouthing considered an appropriate cross-cultural-communication technique, psycho? Anyway, then I played with some goats (naughty goat tried to eat my jacket) and then forgot and had a waffle without washing my hands, d'oh! Behind me in the waffle line were the most obnoxious loud English speakers, I swear to god. On the menu: 'Formule le Big Cheese Burger' - "it's pronounced Formoola ler Grand Fromidge Behrgehr", apparently. It's occasions like these where you pretend to be French as hard as you can. Mostly unsuccessfully, I must say.

On the way back I fell asleep on the coach, despite my best efforts not to. And today I had to literally pinch myself to stop from falling asleep. I've never been good at falling asleep on planes, trains or automobiles, but put me in a position where I'm supposed to be alert and working and it seems I can sleep champion. Stupid hypnotic gentle rocking motion.

Anyhoo, today it was up bright and early at 6.30 am because yet again the shower in our room flooded and the water took the inevitable course towards my clothes and bags on the floor, luckily the salvage mission was successful and I had to be up at 6.45 anyway for my group's breakfast.

Today we were off to La Coupole in the morning, which is a site from which the Germans aimed to launch V8 rockets in WWII - the site was never finished and no rockets were ever launched from it. You got to go down into the tunnels and there is a good exhibition on the history of Nord-Pas-de-Calais in WWII, general WWII and Holocaust history and the history of the German rocket programme and its subsequent application to the space race and Cold War weaponry.

After that (and after lunch in a scenic motorway layby), we headed to Vimy Ridge, which is a bit of Canada in France - gifted to the Canadian people because it was fought over by the Canadians in WWI. There's a beautiful monument there, and more underground tunnels (something of a theme in my travels of late) with excellent free guided tours. You can really see the strategic advantage when you get up on the ridge, there are some great views over some pretty flat land.

Finally, it was back to St. Omer for bowling. They claimed we turned up an hour late, which we did not and had the confirmation email to prove it, but in any case, we were two lanes short so it was a bit of a juggling act getting the kids through and back to the chateau, but no real problems.

After dinner, we had the aforementioned disco and then set breakfast, so I finished work at 10.30 pm - 15 hours after I started at 7.30 this morning, with only an hour or so off over dinner. Okay, sitting in the bowling alley with a hot chocolate or dozing on the coach isn't exactly working in a factory, and I get paid to do trips which I might well pay to do under other circumstances, but they are loooong days out on tour. Not that I'm complaining, my first weekend as a groupie was great! They're off tomorrow, so it's back to being a charwoman for the rest of the week.


  1. When are you going to visit le bunker, or is that where they keep the cheese? Tuberculosis is the norm from unpasteurised milk, although seeing as a frenchie invented the stuff you think they'd make in mandatory (pasteurised that is).
    By the way I'm probably the only person reading this blog who knows the date of agincourt without using google so there!

  2. 14...17?
    I know this though (poss with errors):
    "This story shall the good man tell his son
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
    From this day to the ending of the world
    But we in it shall be remembered
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
    For he today that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition,
    And gentlemen in England now abed
    Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon St Crispin's day"
    Don't know about le bunker I'm afraid.

  3. ooooohhhhh shivers up spine......

  4. Is this Alex a CELTA friend?

  5. Of course not, he's clearly a blog spammer, why would a friend post pointless repetitive crap on my blog, might have to introduce comment moderation if he doesn't feck off


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