La langue anglaise

During this half term break, I began an online course to learn how to teach English as a foreign language. If you are a non-Brit who has chosen to learn English, you are a true hero. Every part of the English language, without exception, is an absolute horror. However, these were the worst parts for me:

Firstly, none of the terminology is the same as it is when I teach French. So what I call the imperfect is the past continuous, and what I call the pluperfect is (I think) the past perfect. Are we all keeping up so far?

Secondly, adjective order is a thing. Native speakers somehow instinctively know what sounds right, for instance, “Louis Catorze caught a huge, fat, brown rat” rather than “… a brown, fat, huge rat”. So size comes first, then shape, then colour. But there are other categories, too: opinion, age, origin, substance and use/function, e.g. “Louis Catorze caught a horrible, huge, old, fat, brown, English, curly-haired, sewer-dwelling rat.” If someone were to give me the words I am sure I would be able to order them correctly. But if they were to ask whether origin came before or after substance, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea without checking.

Thirdly: conditionals. These are quite the most awful things ever. There are four of them altogether and, just to make our lives harder, instead of calling them First, Second, Third and Fourth, we call them Zero, First, Second and Third. So if you see/hear an example and you recognise it as the fourth of the four types that you studied, in actual fact it’s the Third. The third is the Second, and the second is the First. I know. I KNOW.

Zero Conditional is used for something that is factually true all the time: “If I teach online lessons, Louis Catorze misbehaves.”

First Conditional is used for something that is likely but hasn’t happened yet in this case: “If I teach this online lesson, Louis Catorze will misbehave.”

Second Conditional is for something hypothetical yet still with a predictable consequence: “If were to teach an online lesson, Louis Catorze would misbehave.”

Third Conditional is for looking back, possibly with regret, at something that didn’t go as planned: “Had I not been teaching online lessons, Louis Catorze would not have misbehaved.” (Well, we all know that he would have just found another way/reason, but you get the idea.)

There are also Mixed Conditionals which can refer to regrets over actions which continue to affect the present: “Had Louis Catorze behaved during that online lesson, I would not be crying into a vodka bottle right now.”

Anyway, I now need another week off to recover from my training. And Catorze did his best to ruin it – screaming, headbutting the laptop, the usual nonsense – but what he didn’t know was that it consisted of pre-recorded videos, not live Zoom calls. So, although he could see and hear Alan and Joe (his two favourite trainers), they could neither see nor hear him.

Here he is, smug in the belief that he humiliated me in front of actual people (again), when in fact I had the last laugh:

He couldn’t give a hoot about English and expects everyone to speak French.


So … cats ruining video calls. Always hilarious when it happens to someone else and you’re just observing. Distinctly less funny when it’s your cat, and you’re the one responsible for maintaining any vague semblance of order.

It’s not normal to have 863 examples of such behaviour, unless you have 863 cats. One cat is not meant to cause this much bother. However, this is Louis Catorze we’re talking about, so I don’t imagine anyone is surprised.

Anyway … Year 11 can be a troublesome bunch, and the graveyard shift with them (last lesson of the day, 15:00 to 16:00) is always a tough gig. It’s been particularly bad since they were told that their exams have been cancelled, yet minimal guidance has been given about exactly what will happen instead. They have taken this to mean it’s party time. Unfortunately I don’t share this view.

During one especially trying lesson last week (the imperfect tense: everyone’s favourite thing), Catorze decided to come and sit on my stomach and chest. Now, we all know that he wants me dead, and that he only has another 8 days to do the deed and have it register as a Covid death, so there is no reason for him to sit on me other than to spite me, or perhaps in the hope that I will suffocate and die. However, due to the unfortunate camera angle and the shadow falling across my body, he wasn’t fully visible to the students on my video lesson. So all they could see was his sticking-up tail sailing past the camera.

This was how the tragic sequence of events unfolded that day:

1. Poker-straight vertical tail sails past, left to right. Students say nothing.

2. Tail sails past, right to left. Students’ eyes are suddenly fixed to the screen, concentrating yet also confused.

3. Tail sails past again, left to right. Now everyone is paying attention.

4. Kid 1: “Miss …?”

5. Kid 2: “Yeah, Miss. What the …?”

6. Catorze settles on my lap/chest and now everyone can see his head. He has only ever sat in this position twice in his whole life, once last year and once in 2014. (The fact that I can remember when is indicative of its rarity.)

7. Me: “Erm, ok, so it seems we’ve got company. Alors, continuons…”

8. Kids start giggling.

9. Cat Daddy looks in (with the kids safely out of sight, bien sûr), sees Catorze on me and guesses from my French conversation that I am mid-lesson. He mouths the words “PUSH HIM OFF!” making appropriate gestures at the same time to be extra helpful.

10. It then dawns on me that he thinks I placed Catorze there on purpose. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

11. Kids giggle some more as I attempt to bluster on. No work whatsoever is done.

12. The end.

The bad news is that we have another five weeks of this until half term, and the kids have learned absolutely sod all French so far. The good news is … well … I’ll get back to you as soon as we have any.

Je me reposais, tu te reposais, il/elle se reposait …

Maille après maille

Puppy Mamma and I have really been up against it this week, not only because we are back at school but because our knitting project was due.

Despite always telling our students not to leave things until the last minute, we haven’t managed to follow our own advice on this occasion. Stupidly, we didn’t take into account the fact that our knitting designs are a sort of spiral shape working from the inside outwards, and so the larger outer sections take more time. We should have organised ourselves with this in mind, but we didn’t. (Cat Daddy, looking at our work: “You couldn’t figure that out? Even a 5-year-old could have managed that. Jesus.”)

And, of course, just when I was under pressure to finish the most time-consuming parts, and just after I bragged about him being a good boy who leaves my work the hell alone, Louis Catorze remembered that he is a cat and decided to interfere. Here is the little sod (below) the night before the deadline, arsing around with the wool whilst Cat Daddy egged him on and took photos.

Apologies to our instructor, who has now received not one but TWO parts of our project covered in animal spit. And, teachers, if you’re marking assignments of any kind, however much you think you can trust your students, wash your hands afterwards.

C’est pourquoi je vais à l’école

The summer holidays give me a very accurate insight into what it must be like to be a cat: sleeping late, having no concept of time and whiling away hours on pointless rubbish. Now, of course, the new school year is imminent and I am stressing out like crazy about how I can possibly be expected to teach kids when my brain has rotted away through lack of use.

For Louis Catorze, of course, there is no such rentrée anxiety, and next week will just be another week in his ridiculous life of doing nothing and then having a rest afterwards. (Cat Daddy: “No danger of him getting brain rot, though.”)

Good luck to all teachers, support staff and students who are going back to school next week. And please spare a thought for Sa Maj, who will not be budging from here:

L’ordinateur a l’intelligence de celui qui s’en sert

We have only been back for a few days, and already Louis Catorze is causing utter mayhem and driving us round the bend. 

His connerie began on the very evening of our return, when he goaded poor Oscar the dog so badly that we, Dog Mamma and Dog Sister had to go out and intervene before blood was spilled. And, on Monday, he walked across my laptop, causing me to submit my enhanced disclosure application before I had proofread it. 

For those who don’t work in education: this is the highly important process that informs one’s employer whether or not one has a criminal record, so it’s safe to say that it really, really needs to be done properly. Worryingly, after Catorze pressed/kicked “Submit”, I received no error message indicating incomplete or invalid information, meaning that everything written thus far had some sort of logical sense. Whether or not it was correct or desirable is another matter. 

So, at best, I may have entered an incorrect passport or driving licence number and will look like a dodgy fraudster when this is detected. And, at worst, I may have mistakenly clicked “Yes” to the question asking about crimes against children. I guess I won’t know until my application has been processed and my employer contacts me to ask me to explain myself. 

Here is the little sod, pictured not long after the incident and having also dribbled on Cat Daddy’s newspaper. Shits given: zéro.