Not so long ago, I joked to one of the secretaries – the one who I know on a first name basis – that the tail end of Lyon’s winter is akin to a British summer. On February 1st, it was a balmy 16°C; I could happily have worn shorts, but for the fact I was teaching and that probably wouldn’t have looked all that professional. (The fact I’m often mistaken for a student by administrative staff is beside the point.) Temperatures are climbing steadily upward, and at this rate I’ll be spending afternoons in the park reading my books sooner than I had anticipated.
At the start of the month, my letterbox plaque mysteriously disappeared. To this day, I have no idea who took it or how it vanished, but I left a note on the letterbox asking whoever was in possession of my plaque to return it, s’il vous plaît. The next morning, to my utter delight, a Good Samaritan had dropped it into our flat’s letterbox. (Saved me from being on the receiving end of another rant from the resident busybody on the subject of names sellotaped to letterboxes. Hooray!)
Save for the utter confusion when Room 319 wasn’t located – as I had naively assumed – adjacent to Room 320, classes have, so far, been running like clockwork. Whilst there are a few familiar faces in my classes, I’ve largely had to start from scratch with the name-memorising game. I’m fairly good at memorising names; I estimate that of the (approximately) 375 students I taught last term, I could put ¾ of the names to a face. I’ve had an immense amount of fun teaching idioms to my postgraduates – they were in hysterics over “mumbo jumbo”, “to cook the books” and “get more bang for your buck” (cue lots of imitations of American accents). I also broached Brexit, and after providing an overview of the situation, I gave them each a role (think Theresa May’s cabinet ministers, leaders of EU countries and Donald Tusk et al.) and had them negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. If those negotiations are anything to go by, the EU leaders will drive a hard bargain! (And, for the record, my Boris Johnsons, Philip Hammonds and Theresa Mays were no pushovers.) LANSAD-wise, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying teaching the tragic history of Ireland, muddling my way through Australian history and culture (mille mercis to my parents for all their help!) and updating last term’s material on the U.S. of A. with a short sequence from 12 Years a Slave. My remaining classes require little-to-no preparation on my behalf: Langue et Affaires, which is all about advertising, branding and marketing this term; Thème, aka translation from French into English; and Compréhension Orale, which involves me reading a text while the students simultaneously answer a series of questions about it.
Whilst we’re on the subject of classes, I’ll share an amusing little anecdote. I struggle to identify my accent; it’s Northern – that’s a given – but beyond that I muddle along with “Well, I’m from near Liverpool and Manchester, but I’m not Scouse.” Back in January, I had recorded a text on Amazon’s Alexa for use in the language labs for finalists. A fortnight or so ago, I bumped into a colleague who teaches that module. Apparently, after listening to the text, the students collectively chorused “What’s that accent?!” . . . to which my colleague panicked (as she hadn’t listened to the text before the class) and replied “American!”
Amandine’s annual “Soirée Cheese and Wine” took place a couple of weeks ago. I was in a bit of a pickle, as I don’t drink wine and, broadly speaking, dislike French cheese. Fortunately, a stall at the market came to my rescue with some Cheddar à la Guinness, which was just the ticket. It was a really enjoyable evening and the festivities continued into the small hours, though I left just before midnight as I was absolutely exhausted. The following afternoon, Olivier ran a tour of the traboules of Vieux Lyon; I discovered a few new ones, alongside revisiting some that Laurence and I had visited in December. It was gloriously sunny, so after the tour we rounded the afternoon off on the rooftop terrace of the Musée Gadagne.
All too soon, the last week of classes before the Vacances d’Hiver was upon me. I had a whale of a time assessing the postgraduates’ presentations – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in a class. (With my students, I might add. Not at them.) The brief was simple; the results side-splitting. They had to choose an ordinary object – those chosen included pens, scrunchies and water, amongst others – and present it in such a way that it appeared extraordinary. A special mention has to go to Pierre and his “iTissue”: the Apple product for the budget-conscious shopper, available in a range of shades, sizes and scents. (And of course, for those wishing to spend money like water, there was the “iTissue+”.)
Over the past week, I’ve had an immense amount of fun exploring the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region with Laurence. Besides taking in a few new spots in and around Lyon, we also ventured over to Annecy, Chamonix and Grenoble. We squeezed in a handful of hikes (which have left me itching to revisit the Alps and the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse), spent a lot of time on locomotives and munched our way through a plethora of pastries (as per). There’ll be more on these adventures in due course (i.e. in a month or so).