Thursday, 8 October 2009

Frog 2 – Why I’d Want To Live In France


Reasons why I’d love to live in France:

1- The food is fantastic: I kid you not, this stuff is angelic. I had my first quiche Lorraine yesterday and I almost died of ecstasy. Their bread is also first class. Buying a sandwich on a freshly made baguette is heavenly. For some reason as well, I’ve started eating all the things I used to hate in England; tomatoes, all different types of cheese, vinaigrette and lots of salads, mushrooms and green beans. Not fish though. Fish are perverted little critters. I say, if a country’s cuisine can taste so darn tasty and get me to eat loads of stuff I’d previously hated, it’s on a winner.

2 – They still have BNs and Golden Grahams: ‘nuff said.

3 – People seem more cheery: Please note the number of conditional, subjunctive, downright maybe clauses and the general mood of quasi-possibility in this paragraph. Ok, I’m from the North of England which is typically typecast as generally more friendly than the scummy south. Yet here, friendliness tends to be assumed everywhere you go. Except in Paris, they’d sooner guillotine you than look at you. I realise that this politeness is, for the most part, a formality and some people can seem as friendly as Santa but they eventually manifest themselves to be the official paperworker from hell with the ultimate power over your current miserable situation and the unshakable sense that they are better than you, but it’s nice to experience for the first few minutes at least. The Christians here redeem the country though. They actually seem to have read the nice bits of the Bible telling them to be joyful and   über-thankful for God’s grace and they get on with it quite well.

4 – Alcohol: Everyone knows that some of the best wines (if not the best) come from France. Shucks, they even invented a fizzy wine: champagne, named after the French region Champagne (see the crazy leap of faith for a brand name there?) And not only is their wine fantastic, it’s also dirt cheap. What would cost £10 is sold here for the equivalent of £4, and the French being the French, a lot of the best wines never make it out of the country. Not only is their wine fantastic, but you can also buy Gordon’s Export Gin which you can’t in the UK for obvious reasons (you can’t export a product to its country of origin). By far the best thing though is the sheer lack of drinking culture. In France, alcohol typically goes with food, thereby negating a large portion of its potency and not reducing the average working Jean-Claude to a staggering wreck by the end of his lunch hour. Yes, there are bars and nightclubs etc, but the binge culture hasn’t really reached France (or the better part of the continent for that matter) and I don’t get the impression that it ever will.

5 – Le café: Coffee is big in France. They love the strong stuff – and so do I. A French café is monumentally different to its English counterpart, most notably for the way it treats its coffee. In England you might order a latte, cappuccino, espresso, mocha, macchiato, or if you’re really lucky a ristretto (go Oomoo)  and that’s generally the end of the coffee list apart from a few variations on these. In France they have all of those and more, with little short names to learn if you ever want to impress a Parisian waiter (which you do, otherwise you won’t be served). Café is also a normal thing to have after a meal and the French know how to make coffee – non of this filth they call instant coffee. I always say that France is built on three principles: Liberté, égalité, donnez moi du café.


Yet fear not ye English! This blog is merely an attempt to explain why I like France and why, if I ever did settle here, I’d do such a thing. I must have you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could never stand to leave my green and pleasant land for too long, and I’d never dream right now of settling in another country for life. I admit these opinions may change with time, but I feel fairly certain that should I ever become an ex-pat, France will never be home.


Thursday, 1 October 2009


Aside from being a rather humorous translation (albeit inexpertly spelled) of the word ‘grapefruit’, Pomplamoose is an American couple who make fantabulous music on YouTube. Subscribe to them here at http:// .

Yes, that’s right – subscribe to them! “Oh but Andy, you can subscribe to people on YouTube? What does that mean?”

It’s quite simple really, lots of people are now vlogging (the video version of this thing you’re reading), creating and promoting music, doing funny crazy stuff, and generally being quite cool.

I’ve mentioned stuff like this in my previous blog I Have No Life? where I lauded the talents of both Philip De Franco and Alan Distro, stalwarts of the YouTube community.

When most people think of YouTube, they tend to only be aware of its capacity to show impossibly hilarious videos, such as this one:

Or maybe perhaps ones more like these:

But I usually prefer videos with a little more personality to them. Take Jake and Amir for example. Here are two guys who work for College Humor (pardon the American spelling), a site which makes brilliantly funny videos and also posts these videos on YouTube. Jake and Amir form a comedy duo who make regular episodes documenting Amir’s utter lack of higher brain functions. Although videos like those posted above can be (and quite frequently are) great and really funny, I really enjoy a good comedy duo and here is one – on YouTube. I also love their channel as it comes with all the other brilliant College Humor videos. Sadly I can’t post a Jake and Amir video here as YouTube doesn’t allow it, but here a link to their site.

Another style of YouTube which I adore is that of vlogging. Vlogging is essentially (for those of you who hadn’t worked this out yet) a video blog. There are loads of vloggers out there so to get noticed, as Charlie Macdonald has done, is no easy task. Charlie, or charlieissocoollike as he is otherwise known, currently has 203,212 subscribers to his channel and has had (the last time I checked) 5,704,532 views to his channel. This means that his videos have clocked up an accumulative 5,704,532 views – and he’s only just 19!

From humble beginnings of short videos of how to make tea and how to be English:

To his now BBC worthy quest to get a song in the UK top 40 with three of his friends (who are also stories of great accomplishments themselves). Click here for that video. My ultimate favourite videos of Charlie’s however are his subscriber task videos. In these, Charlie performs a random task as given to him by a subscriber such as ‘paint yourself purple’

But maybe one of the best types of YouTube users, or at least the most exciting, are the YouTubers who make music. These are often just random teens with a guitar and a video camera and they often come up with some of the most brilliant music I’ve ever heard. I’ve spoken before about Raven Zoë (whose album is fantastic by the way), here she is with one of my favourite songs of hers (P.S. She’s the girl…)

Yet, as the title and opening paragraph of this blog suggest, my favourite music makers on YouTube have to be Pomplamloose. Here's a link to a website where they have posted a load of their music FOR FREE! Nataly and Jack make a brilliant musical coupling, Nataly with her ethereal beauty which is somehow translated in to her voice and Jack with his ability to play just about any instrument on God’s green earth. And finally, here’s a video of theirs which will show you just why I love them so much. Not only do they make good music, they also have a quirky sense of humour…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little introduction to the YouTube community. Go and explore YouTube – there’s something for everyone.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Frog 1 - Mon Dieu Est Si Bon

Well, here I am - finally in France. Today is my first morning in my new apartment and I must confess that I like it a lot; but let's start at the beginning shall we?

For those of you who don't know, I'm going to be working in France for the next seven months, coming home only for Christmas and Easter (I think). I am now living in the north east of France, quite close to Germany and Luxembourg. I'm just 20km outside the city of Metz in a little town called Rombas. For those of you who know Emmanuel and/or Christine, I'm just about 5 minutes from each of them. Emmanuel lives in Clouange adn Christine in Amneville.

I arrived at about 2:30 and was picked up by Elodie, one of the English teachers at the school, and given a tour of everything. The school is huge and caters for people of quite a large age range. I think I'll be working with the older students.

My apartment is pretty big. I think that I'm going to be living with the German assistant. THe best part about my apartment though, is the fact that just about everything is here. I thought that I would have to buy a load of things but the previous assistants left loads of stuff for me to use! Like the title of this blog suggests - my God is so good.

In my apartment I have these unexpected pleasures: a washing machine, a coffee machine (!), a mini one person peculator (!!), bedding, 5 duvets, cutlery, crockery, a TV, two DVD players, comfy furniture, Wi-Fi, books all about being an English teaching assistant, slippers, bins, cleaning stuff, pots, pans, a lamp for my bedside table, a microwave, and two hypodermic needles. Ok, so I won't be needing the last two but it does drive me to think "just how bad is this place?"

Supermarkets are close by and so is everything else. Everything is within 10-15 minutes walking distance and there are numerous bus stops to go into Metz. I love this place already.

Sadly I'm a little lonely - missing all you lovely lovely people, but hey - what did you expect?

I've been invited out for dinner at one of the English teacher's houses tonight, which is fantastique to say the least. I know I'll get along just fine here - they're all as addicted to caffeine as I am, which is saying something!

Thank you for reading - enjoy your green and pleasant land!

Here's a video that should make you smile - Police spending 9 hours playing Wii bowling.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I Have No Life?

I forget exactly when, but I was explaining to somebody a while back about YouTube and all the people who make daily or weekly videos about what they're up to or commentaries on current events etc, and the comment was made ""What kind of people would do that? Oh yes, people with no life." I laughed politely and then died a little inside. Firstly, I really like the people on YouTube, they're funny and interesting. Just search for sxephil 's YouTube channel and you'll get an idea of what I mean. (I'll put a video of his for the P.S.V with a link to his website). Secondly however, it got me thinking: "What denotes somebody who doesn't have a life?"

That is, apart from being dead.

To find out, I thought I'd do a case study or two.

Exhibit A: Alan Distro
Now here's a guy who many would say has no life. I've come across him on Twitter and YouTube quite a bit. He's in his late 20s, lives with his mother, blogs incessantly, wears glasses and is slightly overweight - the typical internet junkie. Voila you cry - he has no life! But then you look at what he does - he's set up his own record label - DFTBA records* - and recoding studio to help fledgling artists get out there in the mainstream. He's now currently writing his second album with Raven Zoë (see my blog Music Monday) who is fantastically cool. I'd say that he has a pretty awesome life - doing what he likes and pumping out some good music while he does it. What's not to like?

*DFTBA ostensibly stands for Don't Forget To Be Awesome but many alternative meanings have been proposed, notably my favourite Dear, Fetch The Battle Axe.

Exhibit B: My Dad
Now some of you may think this cruel but stick with me for this one. My dad has no hobbies, he only reads non fiction books to help him either in his work or when he's preparing a sermon. He never seems to stop working and enjoy himself, even in the summer holidays. Prime suspect for a man with no life wouldn't you say? Yet my dad is one of the world's leading researchers for nanotechnology and mass spectrometry. He's developing the world's smallest mass spectrometer which could revolutionise the world in thousands of different ways, from helping oil rigs get more oil to sniffing out explosives at an airport. How can that be a man with no life? A valuable scientist who works on impossibly cool nano machines? This one's still breathing!

Exhibit C: Me
Now we're talking. I sit around, doing a course at uni which has minimum contact hours, and minimum work to do. Yours truly loves playing PC games, and is an utter junkie when it comes to the internet. I can't seem to get enough of what people write, post, tweet or just create on the internet so I seem to spend every available moment glued to my laptop. Then again, I'm always out of the house, going to the cinema or the pub or meeting at a coffee shop with my friends. I seldom pass up an opportunity to see people and to go out somewhere if I can. Do I still have a life? I like to think so.

That's the problem really. The phrase is bandied around all the time and everyone has this image of some 30something couch potato living with his mum with a Star Wars duvet and fake Spok ears. But have you ever actually met, or even heard of somebody like that? I hold that such people are so rare, they are no more than myths. Even if there is an army of such people, who am I to say that they have no life? What constitutes having a life? Friends? Doing what you like? Well I imagine that those couch potatoes have great friends on Call of Duty 4 over Xbox live, they always do what they like (video games). So until I meet somebody who is walking around braindead, I will refrain from using that phrase. As far as I am concerned, everybody has a life and it's a life of their own so they can do what the damn well please.

Have a nice life.

Here is sxephil or Philip DeFranco as he is better known. Apologies if you don't like his strong language - he just feels a little strongly about things.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Lessons From Across The Pond

America changes a man. It puts about a stone in weight on him for one thing - I'm now 9 1/2 stone FYI. It also teaches lessons in life which are never to be forgotten.

Lesson Number 1:
Americans are mainly not American. They're either Mexican or Chinese, with a few variations on those two themes thrown in. Sure, the majority have stayed long enough to get citizenship or at least a work permit but it's still bizarre to hear only about 1/3 of the population speaking English.

Lesson Number 2: (Or numero dos for our hispanic bretheren)
Americans will not listen to anybody if they are being told something which they don't like. Observe the following two case studies:

1. Queueing up to buy tickets for the ferry to Liberty Island and to Ellis Island, there were large signs informing us, the general public, that there were no more tickets available for the tour of Lady Liberty's crown. Saddened by this, we kept calm and carried on, after all - there was nothing we could do and we could still go and see the statue and observe its glory from the outside. Three or four places in the queue ahead of us, a lady had finally arrived at the cashier's desk. Blatantly ignoring the A4 piece of paper three inches from her face with clear black 40pt font which vainly attempted to save her breath by telling her that the crown tours were sold out. "Is it true that there are no more tickets to the top of the crown today?" she asked.
No darling, the signs were just for decoration and for a little bit of fun. In fact, the one next to your face doesn't exist.

2. The same day, mere minutes after the first case study, we were in the queue for the ferry. It was a long queue - there were baggage checks just like at the airport. Scanners, beeps, police, guns and everything. At the start of the queue, there was a big sign showing us what we couldn't take to the island. The usual suspects were displayed: guns, knives, swords, bombs, small kittens in milk bottles, that sort of thing. Also on the list were "large cases or bags". I suppose that makes sense - reduce the bomb risk by reducing the size of the objects people can carry near the statue. One couple strolled briskly up to the queue, again ignoring this sign. The security guard next to us (we were near the end - the queue looped round itself) - a big black guy - shouted to them and they stopped. He then proceeded to tell them that they couldn't take the case on the ferry. They glared at him like he was crazy and began power walking to join the queue regardless.
The security guard got them back though - just as his colleague was going to fetch the offending couple, he told him "Nah, leave them dude - they'll find out when they get to the end of the queue" (that would take about half an hour) "I told them but they didn't listen. Screw them."
I smiled.

Lesson 3:
Shop attendants actually care about you and make an effort to show it. No matter where we were, upon entrance to any shop we would be greeted with a smile and an inquiry as to how we were. Even in such high establishments as Tiffany's we were smiled at, greeted and talked to. It was pretty obvious that we couldn't even afford to lick the carpet in the place yet we were still treated like potential customers with a billion dollar fortune to squander. It made a nice difference from the UK where the general attitude (though by no means the attitude of all) shop attendants is that they can't be bothered to work for such little pay and they feel as if they might as well just sulk at the world because of it. Or they're just so dead and hungover it puts quite a damper on any high spirits their clients may possess.

I'm sure I learnt more but it's all flown from my brain.

This guy is amazing for improvised comedy videos. In this one he makes up a lie about some celebrity knowing him. Awkward hilarity ensues.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Not So Un-Talented Mr Radcliffe

I, like the rest of you I suppose, detest Daniel Radcliffe's appearances as Harry Potter. It's not the films themselves, they are usually quite enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the end of the epic struggle of good vs evil. Though sometimes I do sicken myself with my cheesiness. It has been an utter pleasure to watch Rupert Grint as Ron, Tom Felton as Draco and (maybe more importantly for us guys) Emma Watson as Hermione grow and mature as actors; becoming able to deliver convincing performances that manage to stir the emotions - I'm sure the next two films will be where they really come into their own.

Daniel Radcliffe's Harry however, is different. And not in a good way. It is excruciatingly painful to witness his impossibly socially awkward advances with his fellow classmates and his teachers. He occasionally seems to get the hang of being an idiot but that appears to be all he can fit in his skull. At least, that is the popular opinion of the chap.

All this has been niggling away at me though. It has failed to escape my attention that he is internationally renowned, not just for his appearances in the Harry Potter films but in big West End plays such as Equus, films such as December Boys and a few other minor pieces on the side. If he was half as bad as we all think he is, why on earth would people hire the guy?

After pondering this for a while, I have concluded that his performance of Harry Potter which we find oh so painful is intentional. After all, just how slick can a 17 year old guy with huge round framed glasses be? I discovered that rounded frames were not the way forward in year 6 when a rather unkind boy in my year, Timothy Wood, told me in no uncertain terms that I had (and I quote) "the most unfashionable glasses ever". It was alright for him, his daddy was a judge, owned an Alpha Romeo and he had a huge house - the spoilt little brat. I digress.

If Daniel Radcliffe chose earlier on in the (for want of a better word) saga to play Harry as an awkward bozo, he can't very well change his mind can he? After all, although Harry may change throughout the span of his life at Hogwarts, his personality never takes a huge U turn in the middle does it?

After watching The Half Blood Prince for the second time, I found that I enjoyed not only the film itself a lot more, but also Daniel Radcliffe's performance. Well, most of it. Some of it I admit was a little too crap and gawky. Yet I think that Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have roles that allow them to develop as actors far more than Daniel Radcliffe. Is this his fault for choosing to play Harry as a n00b? Most probably yes. However, I am far less inclined to slate all of his performance as Harry now that I've thought about it a bit. Ok, I may not like the Harry he plays, he may not be anything like I imagined him to be like when I read the books BUT I think that he gives a convincing performance in the style that he has chosen. Idiot style.

What about you? Do you detest the bugger? (He is a bit of a git in real life from what I've heard) Do you like him as Harry? What do you think he is going to do with his career after Harry Potter?
Crackpot theories and baseless speculation is welcomed (and encouraged) below.


Friday, 7 August 2009

I'm A Jesus-Man In New York

In England we have the occasional street preacher and mostly they're pretty wacky. Don't get me wrong, I know some great street preachers out there but let's be honest, they're not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Usually with street preachers all you hear is "You're going to Hell! You're a sinner! God hates sin! Look at my nicely knitted jumper from the 80s! I have impossibly huge glasses and a beard! ohandbythewayjesuslovesyouandyoudon'tneedtoworryifyoutrustinhimbecauseofhisamazinggraceandforgiveness.
They generally just major on the bad news and forget the good or just write off all the good all together. Or just preach about a Jesus they've just made up.

So on our first day we were a little surprised to be given a chocolate bar and an invite to a church (more on that one later) and then, two minutes down the line, to hear a street preacher going for it in the middle of Manhattan - that must take some guts. We stopped to listen to whatever heresy he was cooking up but we were instead greatly surprised (or at least I know I was) to hear that the man with the scary beard was really sound. In fact, we stood there listening to him for ages it was that encouraging. We went for a walk along 42nd street and got a good encouraging gospel message all about grace. What more could you ask for?

The next experience was when we were walking to China Town and heard some really loud music. Naturally we went to investigate and found that a group of about 10 churches from across the state had come together to have a gospel and worship music service in the square. It was FANTASTIC! Never have I been so encouraged on a weekday in the middle of a city walking along the street. One of the girls who stood up at the front spoke about all Christians being the body of Christ and I really felt that I had a greater understanding of that being one of only two Englishmen in a crowd of a hundred or so New Yorkers all praising the same God and preaching the same gospel as us.

As for the Sunday, we didn't get to see Tim Keller's church but instead we went along to the church of the guy who gave us the invite on our first day. Now, not only was this church getting out onto the streets of New York to evangelise, not only was it extremely sound and contemporary (check it out at ), not only were they starting a series on a topic both Luke and I were thinking about, and not only does it have a branch out in San Francisco which we will be dropping into when we get there but it was also named after one of my favourite bands - Journey. I almost died.

How's that for encouraging? Not the me dying bit, the rest of the blog.


Not only does America churn out good preachers - it gave us this guy