Saturday, August 18, 2012

She's in the A Team...

** Warning: Proud Mummy Moment Coming Up**

The Girl took her French A level this year. Nothing unusual in that, of course, except that she's only 14. She has actually spent more time in school in France than she has in the UK and is bilingual but nonetheless it hasn't been easy for her to be in the same class as people three or four years older than her.

Her school has been incredible in embracing the fact that she is bilingual and always going the extra mile to help and nurture her. She and The Boy were both entered for their GCSEs three years early and both achieved A*. She was able to go on to take her A level as she still has French in her timetable. For The Boy, who already had the GCSE under his belt and so wasn't taking it as part of his options, there was no room in his timetable for it. He'll take his next year as an additional A level. If he plays his cards right he may end up with 5 A levels.

She's come up against a certain amount of 'well, it's easy for you' sort of comments but I just remind her to tell them that her journey to being bilingual involved being dumped in a school in a foreign country where she couldn't even speak the language. It's a scary situation to find yourself in at the age of 6.

The school had some reservations about entering her for her A level, not because of the language but because the syllabus is aimed at 17 and 18 year old and requires a level of maturity not always present in someone of her age. She was expected to discuss renewable energy and the cult of celebrity, something that would be quite a challenge in your own language at that age.

In the end, she did really well. Better than really well. She got an A and full marks in all of her papers. I embarrassed her horribly by tearing up and rambling incoherent thanks to her French teacher, who was just as proud of her as I was.

We have been so lucky to get them into such a marvellous school, a blessed relief after her years in school in France where she was forced to take English as a Second Language 'because that's what's on the curriculum, Madame.' The Sixth Formers have taken her under their wing, never once considering her a little upstart. They called her Le Petit Dictionnaire and used her as an extra learning resource, not just with the language but in French culture. I dare say they all have a good line in French slang and swear words. In France they refused to accept that teabag wasn't hyphenated, or that Prince Charles didn't go to Rugby School because that's what their textbook said.

So, at the ripe old age of 14 she already has 275 UCAS points to her name and I feel that something very worthwhile has come out of our time in France.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I love the Olympics!

There, I've said it. Me, who has never so much as watched a whole Olympics before. Even living in the same village as a past Olympian didn't pique my interest for the Games.

But  I've spent the last two weeks glued to the television.When did we get so good at sport? I'm sure the last time I watched we regularly limped home in 6th place, with the exception of the rowers who always seemed to do well and I cheered with the best of them when Sir Steve Redgrave, still the greatest Olympian for me because he excelled at his sport while battling ulcerative colitis and Type 1 diabetes, won his fourth gold in the Coxless Four.

Maybe because it was a home Games, maybe because we were watching it all in our own time zone, but from the magnificently fantabulous Opening Ceremony to the last note of the Closing Ceremony, I was transfixed.

I cried when Mo Farah won his second gold and cheered myself hoarse when Jessica Ennis won the Heptathlon. I jumped around the room when the rowers came home with so many medals and had the wonderful experience of being in Ed McKeevor's home town at the very moment he won his gold in the Canoe Sprint. I watched the beauty of the dressage, and  peered through my fingers at Tom Daley and the divers, not because I have no head for heights but because I have a low tolerance level for men in budgie-smugglers. I fell secretly in love with Usain Bolt and punched the air with Bert du Clos when his son beat Michael Phelps in the swimming. If I could, I'd grow sideburns like Bradley Wiggins.

The media would have us believe that we couldn't put on an Olympic Games; the transport network would collapse, the athletes would all miss their event while they were stuck in traffic jams. Al Quaeda would definitely launch an attack and so they droned on like modern day prophets of doom. But we stuck it to all the naysayers and gloom mongers and put on what is widely agreed to be the best Olympic Games of the modern age. Even The Australian grudgingly admitted it was probably better than Sydney 2000, and that was a fabulous event, although in fairness I only watched the closing ceremony. It was probably the best advert for all that is good in this country, for our wonderful people, our slightly quirky sense of humour, our eccentricity and the beauty of our country.  I had no doubts about it. If nothing else, we can put on a good event. Look at the Queen's Jubilees, the Royal Weddings, we have lots of experience.

But to top it off by coming a very easy third in the medals table, from a country that is supposed to be the fattest, laziest and drunkest in Europe according to, oh yes, the media again, was just pure joy.

The only downside for me, not surprisingly, was the football. I caught the last few minutes of the GB-Korea match and the unedifying sight of the GB supporters booing the Koreans every time they came up to take a penalty. I was quietly pleased when the Korean knocked them out. This behaviour was definitely not in the spirit of the Olympics. I was unaware of the controversy beforehand, with Northern Ireland and Scotland refusing to allow their players to take part in a combined team and the Welsh players refusing to sing the National Anthem. I was delighted to read in the papers today that there will be no Team GB football in Rio. Hooray I say!  Strangely enough, Welsh and Northern Irish athletes had no problem competing for Team GB in other disciplines. Is it any wonder I hate everything about football?  Even the women's team players seemed crass and vulgar compared to the other athletes.

Three days after the end of the Games, I am in full Olympics withdrawal mode. It did wonders for our national spirit in these recessionary times, giving us something to focus on apart from politicians and the economy. For two glorious weeks, nothing else mattered as we cheered on our national athletes, many of whom had overcome lack of funding and made huge personal sacrifices to be there. They are our new role models and long may it continue. More Ennis and less Kardashian would make me a very happy girl.

Let's hope that the legacy of the Olympics continues and we can build on our stunning success and get more young people into sport. I'm pushing The Boy to work hard at his rowing so I can be the Bert du Clos of the Rio Olympics!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dear Monsieur Hollande...

As we go into the second week of  NotTheParisOlympicsYetAgain 2012, I can't help but think that maybe the French president, Francois Hollande, is rather wishing he'd kept his mouth shut when he visited the games last week.

As he joined David Cameron for one of the handball matches, he couldn't help but gloat over France's superior medal tally, rather patronisingly commenting that he would put France's medals into a 'European' pot so us Brits could be proud to be Europeans.

What a difference a week makes. With Team GB sat in third place in the medal tables, comfortably separated from France by a country which eats dog - as one spoof news website said - it is probably Monsieur Hollande who will be begging for Britain's superior haul of medals to be added to his European pot. Smugness never befits a politician and has a funny way of coming right round and biting you on the derriere. 

We don't need to be proud to be Europeans, Monsieur Hollande. We're very proud to be British. Go Team GB!

Were are all zee French medals? Zut alors, zay win ze Tour de France
and now zay whoop our sorry derrieres in ze medal tables