Thursday 20 September 2007

The Wall Street Institute Paris

The worst interview I ever had happened some 18 years ago while in Madrid when I went for a job at the Wall Street Institute. I'd spoken to arrange the interview by phone and had talked to someone with a deep husky voice who explained a few things about the role to me.

When I arrived at the school I was led into a room and was confronted by a sizeable black American woman. After the usual pleasenteries I said that I had spoken to her colleague over the phone and he had told me x, y and z.
She stared at me for a moment and then said in a quite aggravated manner that 'it was me you spoke to'. I got out of there as quick as I could.

The Wall Street Institute is like the Starbucks of language schools. You'll find many in Paris and their advertising is everywhere notably in the Metro where the ad claims (usually showing a photo of a businessman punching the air in delight) that their students have a '97% success rate'. That is, on their own internal test. Wasn't it Disraeli who said that "There are lies, damn lies and statistics"

One of the students where I teach English in Paris used to go to the Wall Street Institute. He hated it. Basically he spent most of the time in front of a computer doing exercises and once in a while a teacher would come by to check things. He paid a lot of money but got nowhere so he came to us.

If I could just convince a few more of the Wall Street Institute's clients in Paris to come to my classes instead (perhaps 3%) then I might start to make a decent living here.

Post script: After posting the above I came across this interesting website about the Wall Street Institute in Paris and elsewhere TEFL blacklist - Wall Street Institute

Post post script: I recorded this skit called not the Wall Street Institute Paris

Sunday 9 September 2007

In Trouble With The French Police

Parapluie Paris
Originally uploaded by malias.

Back in Paris I had this bright idea to go down to La defense to hand out leaflets promoting the language courses that I run in the hope of attracting some lucrative business contract.

La Defense is the business district of Paris and early September is the time of the rentrée when Parisians return bronzed and refreshed from their summer vacation. It's also the begining of the academic year so it's the best time to get work.

I went down with a friend early on Friday morning to catch the salarymen as they arrived for work.

We started to hand out leaflets but withing two minutes the police arrived threatening us with a 65 Euro fine each. We were outside on the street so I couldn't see what law we were breaking but apparently the concourse at La Defense is privately owned and you need a licence to distribute publicity (but If it is privately owned then why were the police enforcing these rules?).

Someone once told me that Paris is a very 'keep of the grass' city. I now know what she meant whatever you do it seems that you are transgressing one rule or another.

You have been warned.

Friday 7 September 2007

The New Piccadilly Closing Down

New Piccadilly
Originally uploaded by malias.

The old style English cafes that you once found all over London are a dying breed. One of the few remaining was The New Piccadilly in Denham Street.

This interior has remained virtually unchanged sinced the 1950s even the menu is the same, offering hearty Anglo-Italian food at reasnable prices. To be honest I never thought the food was particularly good however, I was still sad to find out that it is closing its doors for the last time on September 23rd 2007.

Happilly there are a few of these old style cafes left in London. So if you're in London and you would like to try something different to the bland franchised chaines that you find everywhere then try one from this selection. Plonk yourself down at a formica table and enjoy your meal (and a cuppa).

Just don't expect anything fancy.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Jellied Eeels

Jellied Eeels
Originally uploaded by malias.

Someone asked me in Paris recently if there was any food specific to London. I must admit I struggled to answer. Only two things came to mind. pie and mash and that East End delicacy jellied eels.

I'm in London at the moment and on Sunday while walking around the East End on the way to Spitafield Market I stumbled across Tubby Isaacs' stall in Aldgate.

I was with the ever curious Eduardo from Argentina I recommended that if he wanted a geniune taste of London he should try the eels.

They said that when David Beckham went to play for Real Madrid the only thing he really missed from home were the jellied eels.

To me they looked disgusting so much so that I couldn't even bring myself to try them. Eduardo had a go. However, what he thought of them is hardly printable.

Saturday 1 September 2007

The 'Polish' Plumber

Eat Fish
Originally uploaded by malias.

After the EU was expanded in 2004 Ireland the UK and Sweden were the only EU countries to allow unrestricted access to the labour market for citizens of the new entrants (Poland, The Baltic states, Hungary etc).

Meanwhile France and a number of other countries maintained its work permit system largely because of the (mainly groundless) fear that a large influx of immigrants would push up unemployment.

A further factor in the restricting of access to the job market was undoubtebly to maintain the priveleged position of certain trades who feared that competition from abroad would bring down the prices they could charge.

Well I have to tell you that the sooner the archetypal Polish plumber moves west the better.

In an earlier entry I mentioned that I had plumbing problems in my Paris apartment. I needed an estimate for some laying of some new pipes. So I called a few plumbers. Some of the plumbers never returned my calls finally I got a French plumber to come round. He was late (several days late in fact) , rude, sent the estimate to the wrong address and got my name completely wrong. Worst of all he wanted 1012 Euros for what he said was a day or two days' work.

1012 Euros is a lot of money, I didn't know what to do. Finally an English friend recommended a Romanian plumber he had used. I called him, he came on time, he did the work in 4 hours and charged me 170 Euros including parts. Pretty reasonable I thought.

Call me old fashioned but a bit of competition can be a good thing.