We now have as many kids as we can handle!

Most of you will know by now that we’ve had another kid, Blaise Frank Alcorn, born in the middle of March. He’s in perfect health and REALLY cute. In fact, he’s so similar to Gwen when she was a newborn that I think there will come a time where the date the photo was taken will be the only indicator of which child is featuring in the photo. Well, for newborn pics anyway.

We’ve created a page for Blaise on our blog to keep up with the changes as they fly by, but also see the photos on Flickr: here’s a collection of Blaise’s photo sets, Blaise’s first few days, all of Blaise’s photos and our favourite photos so far.

We’re not planning on having more kids, which is probably a good thing as these two are quite a handful. They’re lovely and all, but they always seem to need attention at the same time.

Other than this huge piece of news, there’s not a lot else to add. We’ve both had parental leave for the past 2 weeks, but Bruce will have to go back to work soon. The weather’s finally warming up (after some random Spring snow when Blaise was born) and we’ll soon be able to eat outside in the garden again. Looking forward to it!

It’s been a while. What HAVE we been up to?

It’s terrible how it takes so long to get back into blogging when you’ve been ignoring it for a while. You see, just to catch you up on the main events of the last year and a bit would involve giving you just one sentence or so for huge events like the birth of Gwen. And since that really doesn’t cut it, it doesn’t get written. So, I’m going to stop all the silliness and just write until I’ve said a bit about a few important things and then leave it at that. Is that alright?

Gwendolyn Coraline Alcorn

Our biggest piece of news since January 2011 (when we last updated the blog) is that we had a baby. Gwendolyn was born in October 2011 and she has proceeded to change our lives in all the best ways possible. We’ve set up a special page on this blog just for Gwen, with tidbits of information about what she likes, plus a few good photos and links to where you can see more. It will update slowly over time.

New Baby

We’re also awaiting another baby, which we’re expecting in late March. As we did for Gwen, we’re not finding out the gender until it’s out in the real world. We’re excited and happy that Gwen and sibling will be pretty close together in age (17 months).

Visitors

This past year has been light on visitors, with Jayne, Tony and Felix visiting in April and Mum & Ian visiting in October/November on either side of walking the Camino de Santiago. We also caught up with Alan and Patricia near Carcassonne for lunch while they were in France.

Work

Not a lot has changed: Bruce is still working for Agralis and Ange is still working for MakeUseOf.com with some singing gigs for Lotelles and associated things. We have added new roles and things to do, but still enjoying where we are. Bruce got to take a trip to Finland for work just before Gwen was born and he’s currently in London getting some training. Ange also flitted over to London while pregnant with Gwen for a gig with the Monestier Big Band.

Play

Despite spending most of our time doing baby stuff now, we still go to choir and just take Gwen with us. It was easy at first with Gwen as she was quiet. Nowadays she’s more inclined to run amok and distract everyone. We’ve got a concert on Feb 10th, which is the last one we’re doing before the next baby is born and I guess we’ll have to rotate rehearsals or something in order to sing again when we’re ready.

Other than singing, we’re really doing a lot of housebound stuff at the moment (being winter and all). Around all the nappy changing and attempts at sleeping, we can usually be found reading to Gwen, playing board games and occasionally getting the chance to watch a movie.

Over the summer in 2012 we had an awesome camping trip in the PyrĂ©nĂ©es (which was where I realised I was pregnant). Gwen absolutely LOVED it, so we’ll be doing lots more camping as soon as the new baby is ready for it.

For Christmas 2012 we were invited to a great many things and finally got to do the traditional French Christmas Eve celebrations with our lovely friends. Christmas day was a quiet one with just us (as was Christmas 2011). We’re trying to piece together our own little family traditions. So far, a highlight is that mid-afternoon we need to have hot Milo, which is about as Aussie-in-Winter as you can get.

The Future

Well, with a baby due soon we definitely won’t be heading to Oz in a hurry. Feel free to come visit us here, though!

The next few months will be a blur of baby-related stuff, but thankfully I get two months off work to deal with it (paid maternity leave for freelancers in France – yay). Gwen’s already at crèche three half-days a week, so she’s got a little bit of independence and other fun stuff to do. That will also make it easier when I get back to work, too.

At some point in the not-too-distant future we’ll also need to think about moving into a bigger place. We’re hoping we can get by here until we’re ready to buy something, but we’ll see how that goes. It might just be more sensible to rent somewhere bigger for a while. BTW, we recently got interviewed about looking for houses in France, if you want to read that.

Right, I guess it’s time to add a sprinkling of photos throughout the post and get it online for you all. Generally speaking, if you want to see what we’ve been up to, checking Flickr is the best bet. Sometimes it’s slow to be updated, but not usually as slow as writing blog posts. 🙂 I’ve also tried to link to relevant photo albums from this post, so take a look if you’re keen to browse.

Social Life and Choirs

Everything’s great here. Things are just starting to fall properly into place.

I’ve (Ange) been doing freelance work for MakeUseOf.com for a few months and slowly but surely have been offered more responsibility (and money), which is pretty awesome. MakeUseOf.com might not be on your radar, but it’s in the top 100 tech blogs and PC magazine recently listed it as number 5 in top tech blogs for the year. So, as far as using my degree for something appropriate goes, this is pretty high on the list. 🙂 Plus, it’s fun! And it means messing about on the internet is officially useful for me professionally. Woo!

Other work things… I’m about to start working as an English teacher for kids (just two short lessons per week on Wednesdays). Basically, this will mean playing games for an hour with about 10 kids. 🙂 I’m also about to start conducting a bilingual kids choir. I’m not getting paid for the conducting. When I agreed to it I wanted an excuse to get out of the house more and I had previously figured that volunteering would be a good way to pick up more French and meet new people.

Socially, we’ve been sort of adopted into a lovely family here. Their kids have decided that we’re like aunt/uncle or cousin to them. I babysit the girls every now and then, plus I go to the park with them sometimes on Wednesday afternoons (kids here get Wednesdays off school). Most weekends there’s a lunch either at their house or our house, plus we go out for dinners/lunches sometimes. We’ve even been to their family farm. 🙂 For the little one’s 4th birthday, we had been invited for lunch on the Sunday when the grandparents would be there, but when the kid woke up on the Saturday (which was her birthday) she demanded that there be a birthday lunch for her ON her birthday and told her parents to invite us around quick smart.

Oh, and another day, I was driving somewhere with the mother and the girls, when one kid suddenly asked if she’d be allowed to spend some time at my house while her mum wasn’t there. ?!?!?!?! The other kid decided that would be a great idea and got in on the begging. So, somehow we wound up agreeing to this and I looked after the girls (ie. let them play computer games and eat lollies) while the mum went home and had a nap. They also choose having me babysit them over the nounou (nanny), which is good(ish) for them since the nounou can’t often take them at short notice.

Both of the adults of this family speak better English than we speak French. The father is determined to get us to teach his whole family decent English, so he prefers it if we speak English (with the girls especially). The girls hate this idea, so we say things in both languages (if we remember). Then, we sneakily set up computer games which will teach them small amounts of English (but not rely on it). I think they learn at least one new English word (in a way they’ll always remember) per day of babysitting.

There’s not much of a work social culture for Bruce, but they’re all lovely and friendly people. Occasionally there’s work lunches or dinners, and if there’s English speaking people that need entertaining I usually get invited out too (perks!). We usually entertain the English-speaking people who are here on business during weekends, too.

In choral stuff, we joined a choir a year ago. This was the start of everything. It’s just a small (5-10 people) unauditioned choir in Agen (choir is called L’Ensemble Vocal Expression d’Agen). Because of the conductor and a few choristers, we’ve then either joined other choirs or at least met people through joint choir concerts.

Alright, I’m going to have to start throwing names in to ensure things make sense (note: Françoise is a woman, François is a man. Different people).

The conductor (Françoise) and a few singers from there (including François and Anne) also sang in another choir once a month on Sundays (called Gaudeamus), which Bruce and I got invited to join. Gaudeamus is basically made of people from Expression d’Agen and another one of Françoise’s choirs, Impulsion de Villeneuve (Villeneuve is a town 30 minutes away). Gaudeamus is held at Anne and François’ house and has a rotating roster for who’s in charge of making lunch, so we’re blissing out on awesome French food when we’re with these guys. They also sing awesome music (Françoise has great taste). Oh, and it’s got lots of Dutch women who speak English and are still learning French (and are lovely and give me lots of mirabelles), so we all help each other out with understanding what’s going on. We like this choir.

Meanwhile, Françoise has convinced me to do some solos and to sing solo/duet stuff at weddings with her as well as the choir stuff. And Bruce and I get to go to French weddings!

Françoise also conducts a choir (well, she conducts lots of choirs) not far from here in Bon-Encontre. This choir is a bunch of oldies and is massively bass/tenor heavy and so she begs me to sing with them sometimes. Thankfully, she doesn’t make me go to all the rehearsals and has allowed me to be the sort of evil ring-in that everyone hates (except they don’t). Bruce is invited to sing as well, even though they really don’t need more guys around. And these guys are great – they invite us to their massive lunches after choir events, so we get to hear old-person jokes, practise our French and eat more awesome food. Expression d’Agen and the Bon-Encontre chorale sing concerts together sometimes too. Oh, and through these concerts in Bon-Encontre we’ve met this awesome Irish priest (who lived in Adelaide).

We’ve sung at community events, fund-raisers, the fĂŞte de musique and proper concerts (as well as the weddings). Sometimes we go on short hikes with choir people before or after a concert (and they teach us which wild plants are edible). Some concerts are with more than one of these choirs, and we either sing the same piece together or a few pieces each. It all works out, although sometimes we have no idea what’s going on.

Three of the choirs (Gaudeamus, Expression, Impulsion) went to Auvergne at the end of September for a joint concert and whatnot. It’s a beautiful mountain area.

I think we’ve met about 100 people directly through this small circle of people. Plus, we’re getting to see a lot of local culture and everyone is keen to teach us local history, make us try new foods and notice anything special worth noting. It’s great!

Somehow I wound up being convinced to conduct Gaudeamus after Françoise parted ways. It’s not a paid job and I’ve told them they can only have me temporarily until they find a proper conductor. Mainly, they wanted to get someone who knows last year’s music well (Jenkins – Armed Man), since we learned it especially for a concert in Holland this July.

Oh, and for this year (year being like the European school year: Sept-July) Françoise wanted to get a female choir (made from Expression and Impulsion) to sing one of my favourite pieces ever (Jenkins – Adiemus). I have no idea when we’ll have time to practise this, but I’m damn well doing it.

So, that’s our French choral circle. Then there’s the English choral circle. (Oh, also in name annoyances, in this social circle there’s both a Victoria and a Vicky).

Earlier this year, Victoria decided to start a female choir which was friendly to mums with kids. I figured I’d join so I could meet English-speaking people (especially mums). In this sense it’s GOLD. There’s a few mothers (25-40 years old) with small kids. They babble on about toddler/baby stuff, the French school system and bilingual kid issues constantly. Perfect. Also, they talk about how to get hold of English produce in France (or things that are normal in England but you can’t find here, like CRUMPETS). So, it’s great. I’m learning (about both kids and being an expat in France), networking and speaking to people more my own age – yay! They’re also a fun bunch who are involved in local folky/music stuff. So, there’s a few of us there who keep track of the local folk events and make sure we all know what’s coming up. Plus, those ladies have partners who are all friends too. They run a cricket club for English expats who get together for beer & cricket in Summer. They want Bruce in. 🙂 Oh, and we sort of made friends with the guy who runs the curry cart at the folky events. Mmmmm, curry.

Luckily, it is also a good choir. The conductor, Vicky, has great taste in music. For this choir it’s all show-tunes and boppy stuff. The girls sound good. It’s fun – Yay! But, within seconds of joining this choir Vicky had asked me to join another one of her projects. So, after those rehearsals, Vicky, Victoria and I have a practise together for a trio (which might expand when we find the right people). We sound amazing together. We’re singing pretty, angelic-voiced stuff for one concert theme, and Vicky wants us to do some dixie (and similar) for a concert she’s got planned with her husband’s band. It’s going to be awesome. And busy!

So, I pretty much need to stay inside and hide from the world so I don’t wind up finding out about other cool things I can do. 🙂

In general, we’ve spent lots of time chilling at home, reading, watching movies, playing games and trying to learn French. We’re tourists some of the time, too.

Oh – and we were taken gliding the other day!!! After a lovely lunch our host just said “Hey, the weather’s nice, let’s go gliding!”. It was great!

Sometimes I think we do nothing, other times I think we do too much. 🙂

Most of this post was written in one hit (originally in an email to tanya) and I’ve been slowly adding photos relevant to what’s written here. However, there has been many other events between the last post and this. Plus, there’s other news worth mentioning this week. My grandfather Barry Moore has recently died after slowly watching his body fade away. I will be very sad not to be in Australia for the funeral on Friday.

Getting from December to March

Sheesh. I can’t believe January and February flew by like that. Sorry for failing to update! Hi all. It’s Ange writing again – Bruce promises to start writing sometime soon.

We left Lyon on early January and drove over to Agen, where we’re now living and settling in properly. The drive over was a saga, which nearly left us with a car that didn’t quite fit all of our gear. We spent two hours re-packing the car until it all finally fit in.

We spent January living with a lovely family who helped us to organise our French paperwork, taught us some French, fed us lots of awesome French food and generally made us very welcome. These people are also Bruce’s bosses, so he’s pretty happy that he’s working with nice people.

Bruce wasn’t able to start work straight away, despite EU legislation being clear that he could, French authorities want things to be done their way and we had to get him a titre de sejour first. So, January became one big saga to get Bruce a titre de sejour. We would have had to do this anyway, but it was nice to have a native French person helping me to work out what was what. To get it, we eventually collated around 200 bits of paper with French explanations as to what it all meant, official French translations of birth certificates, proof of French housing, bank details, passports, proof of entering the country, proof of employment, proof that we plan to pay French tax, insurances, Australian tax returns, payslips going back half a year, proof of housing in Australia etc etc. Luckily, you don’t have to pay to apply for the titre de sejour, but you do have to pay for the official translations ($50 per birth certificate/wedding certificate) and spend hours and hours chasing up bits of paper and collating them ready for submission. By the end of the month, we had a titre de sejour, so now he can work. Woo!

So, Bruce now works at Agralis, troubleshooting and fixing soil moisture monitoring probes (Some from Sentek, some from competitors). He has a 6 month contract, which will be renewed if his French has improved, presuming Agralis has enough work for him. He’s also on the website. He seems to be doing a lot of travelling for work at the moment, since he helps people to set up their probes correctly and goes to conferences. He went to Vienna for a conference but I haven’t uploaded the photos yet (Bruce took about 400 photos of a couple of swans and I have no idea which ones to keep – seriously).

Oh – I forgot the big news of January. Bruce got a haircut for this job. The head of the company thought Bruce looked like a hippy (and didn’t approve) so it’s gone now.

So, that was January in a nutshell. The picture version of January is here, although I still need to add some photos.

February saw us moving into our own place-ish. We’re renting part of a mansion from a couple known to our previous hosts. It’s a very nice house and we have heaps of space. Downside is that it’s not permanent, since the owners are trying to sell. But, we can unpack as much as we can be bothered and the rest can live downstairs in storage. If we’re still here when it warms up we can make use of the pool out the back, too.

Our new landlords are also a lovely couple, who I’ve now had a meal with (while Bruce was away at the SIMA agricultural exhibition in Paris) and gone for a nice wander around a forest.

Bruce also got sent to Biarritz for a work thing, so I tagged along and we made a weekend of it. We managed to stay in a hotel run by an English guy who had lived in Adelaide for a few years. We had to leave before we found out that we’d been to school with his family or whatever other Adelaide effect was in store for us.

I guess this is a good a time as any to mention that the Grillies got their own blog. Silliness ensues.

So, February was mainly settling into the new place and Bruce settling into the job. I’m finishing up the last of my degree and hunting a few more bits of elusive paper which will ensure more permanent titre de sejour. The picture version of February is here.