Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the french and the english

Some of the observations I have made about the relationship between the French and the English since arriving in the U.K. have been surprising to me.

I expected, as stereotypes have prevailed, that the Franco-Anglo symbiosis would be a frosty one. Especially, perhaps, as the relationship in Canada has been fraught with in-fighting and struggle.

But what I have seen, in person, and on reality television of British expats in France and cooking shows, is much more than begrudging respect or a sense of putting up with bad neighbours. The French and the Brits, in coy deference, are actually secretly smitten with each other.

Whereas I have seen Brits openly -- and quietly -- racist about people of colour at times, whenever they are paid attention to by the French they are flustered and proud. Even more surprisingly, the French appear genuinely taken aback by attentions from the Brits.

Perhaps this secret crush has emerged since the trials of World War II, never out of sight or remembrance in Europe, as that horror took place only sixty-plus years ago.

Whatever the reason, it is truly a case of 'vive la difference'.

grand slam!

Last Saturday Cardiff was invaded by a strong contigent of red, white and blue-clad, beret-attired Frenchmen hoping to see the Franco-rugby team stop Wales in their last game of the Six Nations Tournament. Non chance. The Welsh dragons beat France to claim the Grand Slam, winning each of their games against the teams of Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy -- and the 2011 World Cup finalists, France.

It doesn't take long to become rugby-crazed in Wales. In mid-February, the lanes and streets of Cardiff city centre were marked by good numbers of kilt-wearing Scotsmen. A few weeks later a few intrepid Italians made the long journey. The French, however, came in multitudes. The hotel at which I work has more than 150 rooms and most of them were inhabited by the French.

As hotel guests, the French are welcome at any time! Reserved, so civilized, they exude a quiet seriousness and left the hotel rooms almost as immaculate as when they arrived. C'est si bon!

Cardiff's city centre buzzed a whole day before the big match and the Millennium Stadium is so near that the hum and roar of thousands can be heard from anywhere in the centre. It feels as if gladiators are thrilling the hordes at a nearby coliseum. At City Hall, only a mile or so from the stadium, a giant TV screen was erected for fans to watch the game. In The Hayes, smack in the centre of Cardiff, the square was filled with more watching the outdoor BBC screen. Pubs throughout Cardiff were packed with supporters of the Welsh brigade.

I watched a quiz show on TV the other night and was stunned that I actually knew the names of members of the Welsh rugby team. Rugby-mania is going to be hard to replace when I return to Canada.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

financial reprieve

Just a quick note to say that my financial concerns a few weeks ago have dissipated. Even though heating costs went up 18 per cent this last winter, I must be better at monitoring my heating -- or better at bundling up in layers -- as my three-month bill for the coldest months was actually about £70 less than last year. Yeah!!!

Also, apparently the price of a day trip to Swansea has not doubled and is the same as last year. It seems when I was checking the prices online a month ago I was punching in a return ticket for the next day. Next day return is double the price of a single day return. Don't know why, but that's how they do it. I'm just glad my favourite daytrip destination continues to be more than reasonable and easily within reach.

who(m) do you suppose?

The Silent -- Dr. Who
Cyberman -- Dr. Who
Photos BBC Wallpaper
This past Sunday the sun was shining and warm, the skies blue and I had the day off, so I headed down to Cardiff Bay to enjoy the day.

Late in the afternoon I saw a very small sign that looked as if it were about an open house at the newly built BBC Studios on Roath Lock. All it said was 'open'. The Studios were about a 15 minute walk away and upon arriving I found out there was an openhouse involving a two-hour tour with no charge for admission. However, apparently entrance was allowed only by pre-arranged admission tickets.

The security guard said to walk down to the gate and see if anyone had cancelled, as a tour was about to leave. There were five other people waiting there as well. A woman came, took the family of four and told another woman and me that we could come back for the last tour at 5:30 if we wanted. Why not? What an opportunity!

So, on a day I had purposely left my camera at home in order to travel light, I ended up inside the BBC Roath Lock studios surrounded by lifesize, breathing Dr. Who monsters and aliens.

Amazing, wonderful evening!