Tea and Talk


«Tea & Talk» at BABEL  come and join us!


Tea and Talk is the brainchild of BABEL founder member, Su Johnson, who thought that members might appreciate a chance to talk about things in English in an informal setting.

So, for many years now, a group has been meeting every other Thursday afternoon for two hours during the BABEL year to discuss a wide range of subjects. We try to steer clear of politics and religion but find we have lots to talk about, in any case.

There are a number of  members  who come quite regularly but each year there are new  people.  This is not a formal class.  Tea and Talk simply gives you, the members, the opportunity to talk in English about a wide variety of topics, as and when you want. Usually we have about 6-8 people present.

The level of English really is irrelevant, although this is probably not ideal for beginners – a desire to participate is what is really important.

Tea is provided by BABEL – and we take it in turn to bring biscuits.

If this idea interests you, come along – as for all BABEL activities, there is no charge for your first experience. If you come back a second time then we will ask you for 28€ (for the WHOLE year), in addition to the BABEL registration fee.

The class takes place on:

Thursdays : 14h30 – 16h30

The proposed dates for the classes 2019 – 2020 are as follows:

In 2019 –

10th October; 7th November; 21st November; 5th December; 19th December.

In 2020 –

16th January; 30th January; 13th February; 12th March; 26th March; 9th April.

7th May; 28th May; (to be confirmed) 11th June.

If you wish for more information, please contact Su Johnson 04 76 89 03 58


The members of the Thursday group have created  a


which will contain items of (relatively) positive news from around the world.  Items will be  added throughout the year.


This is the work of Catherine, presented during the class on 29th March.

          Of course you have heard of the mass-murder that took place on Feb 17th, in a high school in Parkland (Florida) and that killed 17 people, students and teachers. It is certainly not good news but …

As usual, it gave rise to a lot of emotion in the country and a big wave of indignation abroad: « How can they still hang on to their bloody 2° Amendment?* It is a long time since the last Indian was shot! »

As usual polls showed that a majority of people demand stricter gun control.

As usual there were demonstrations with people holding white roses and the next day you could find flowers, candles and moving messages at the school gate.

But this time something was unusual. Yes, there were demonstrations, but one of them was in the capital of the state of Florida, in Tallahassee, which is 700 kilometres from Parkland and there were 5000 participants. The organizers must have been really convincing.  There they managed to meet journalists and several politicians, the governor and members of the state Congress.  And they knew how to be even more convincing, because 3 weeks later, at the beginning of March, the local Congress, which has a republican majority, voted a law that placed some restrictions on the use of guns – for example, among other rules, postponing the age when you may buy a gun from 18 to 21.  And this is apparently a small earthquake that made the NRA somehow totter.  Indeed for more than 20 years there has been an efficient and quick way to make laws about weapons in Florida.  The NRA writes their particular wishes in the weapons field and the Congressmen transcribe them word for word into law. A similar attempt in Washington State was a failure.

But one month later, big crowds were once more in streets all over the country to demand new rules at a national level.

And last week-end there were those big demonstrations. For example, there was one in Washington as they showed us on the French TV.  It was almost a show, with a stage. There was a girl making a speech during which she asked for 6 1/2 minutes of silence – the duration of the shooting- . The impression was strong.

The students who lead this movement are very skilful.  They study political science, journalism and theatre and obviously use what they have already learnt in a clever way.  They know how to use modern tools.  They created #neveragain for example.

All that makes me think or hope that perhaps the US has come to a deciding moment/watershed and that the movement will not be stopped so easily.

But am I too optimistic?

*The Right to Bear Arms

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.



This is the work of Guite, also presented during the class on 29th March.

Good news: Take the plane this summer.

The plane is the safest means of transport of our time.  Today, 4 billion people fly each year everywhere in the world

2017 was the safest year in civil passenger transport.  There have never been so few plane accidents since 1946 (72 years)

In 2017, there were only 10 accidents in civil passenger transport (44 dead.)  Indeed, in France by comparison, 3,693 people lost their lives in car accidents the same year.

There were 36.8 million flights in 2017 which makes only one fatal accident in 7,360 million flights.  In January 2018, commercial passenger air transport did not register any fatalities on aircraft with more than 20 seats.



This is the work of Françoise  presented during the class on 17th May.

Town Criers

While today we are used to receiving most of our information from television and the internet, things were a little different some time ago.

One funny way to inform the whole population was with the Royal Town Crier.  He wore medieval clothes and a feathered hat, and had a bell in his hand.  He still exists today and, for example, at the birth of Louis, (William and Kate’s third child) he went on the steps of the clinic and began his announcement with: “Oyez, Oyez”   This is the traditional way to begin all the Royal announcements since the invasion of Britain by William the Conqueror. (Guillaume Le Conquérant).


The criers were very important during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. They announced Royal proclamations.


Oddly enough, during this current period when forms of social media are so important, we can note that during the last 20 years criers have resurfaced in France.  There are currently about 200.  For instance, a young actor carries out this activity at La Croix Rousse in Lyon.  Messages are put in boxes in the area and each Sunday the crier proclaims these messages during 2 hours.

There are classic or personal messages: poems, declarations of love, advertisements, wanted notices (or messages about things like lost cats and so on). The price is 2 euros per message, only 1 euro for a Love message because you can’t put a price on love! Profits are given to solidarity associations.

In Grenoble too, there has been a crier since 2008.  Aldo Fax makes announcements at the Estacade Market each Monday at 11a.m.


In the world more than a thousand criers have been identified. They are used to meeting every 2 years for a competition in voice projection and smartness. The last winner was a bilingual Amerindian.



This is another contribution by Catherine, presented during the class on 10th January 2019.





At the beginning of the 19th century in Great Britain, the right to vote was not definitely forbidden to women but they did not exercise their right very often.

In 1832, the «Great Reform Act» was voted. This restricted the right to vote to «male persons» only.  It raised fierce protestations from the SUFFRAGISTS, led by Millicent Fawcett.  After several decades it became obvious that their way of acting, which respected decency, was not efficient.  Influenced by EMMELINE PANKHURST, some militants decided to use violence.

Emmeline Goulden was born in 1858 in Manchester.  She married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and had 4 children.  Her husband belonged to the left wing of the Liberal Party and was a strong supporter of social equality.  Her fight was about the women’s vote.  His early death did not stop her.  It was rather the opposite.  She tried in the first place to convince the newly founded Labour Party to support her case.  That would have allowed her to get seats in Parliament and to make changes in the law easier.

As the Labour Party refused, she founded the WSPU (the Women’s Social and Political Union) in 1903.  The so-called SUFFRAGETTES had the same aims as previously but the means were absolutely different: throwing stones, setting fire to empty buildings or churches, hunger strikes when sent to jail.  Some died.  Emily Davison ran into the legs of the king’s horse in Epsom.  Once they threw a bomb in front of the door of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  During the First World War the movement slowed down because the women turned their energies to the war effort.

In July 1918 the REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT was voted. This allowed women to vote, BUT  only if they were over the age of 30:  (men had to be over 21) and rich enough i.e. with an income of more than £5 a year.  Ten years later in 1928, the vote was granted without any conditions, just one month after the death of E Pankhurst.

TIME Magazine labelled her in 1999 as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

Last year a film came out about her and the movement:  Suffragette.


By the way: votes for women were granted in

1893 in New-Zealand

1902 in Australia………..

1906 in Finland ………

1920 in the USA ……………………..

1944 in France ………………………… and last but not least

1971 in Switzerland.


This is a presentation which Geneviève prepared for the class on 2nd May 2019

The Vercors Plateau.

The Maquis du Vercors was a rural group of the French Forces of the Interior resistance (maquis) that fought the 1940–1944 German occupation of France in World War II.  The Maquis du Vercors used the prominent scenic plateau known as the Massif du Vercors (Vercors Plateau) as a refuge (maquis means scrubland.)  Many members of the maquis, known as maquisards, died fighting in 1944 on the Vercors Plateau.

Vassieux-en-Vercors contains several prehistoric archaeological sites, and has a Prehistory Museum which was created in May 1970 after the discovery of a flint knapping workshop (atelier de façonnage du silex).

In June and July 1944, the French Resistance known as the Maquis du Vercors staged a major uprising against the German occupation in Vercors and proclaimed the Free Republic of Vercors. It was the first democratic territory in France since the beginning of the German occupation in 1940 – but this revolt was brutally suppressed.

First landing of gliders on July 21, 1944

On 21 July 1944 in the morning, around 7.30 a.m. twenty-two DFS 230 gliders towed by Dornier Do 17 took off from Lyon / Bron with ten men on board, including the pilot. The flight, which lasted an hour and a half, was carried out without any particular problem and the gliders began to land very close to the village, some practically next to the houses. The arrival of these soldiers was a total surprise for the resistance fighters because they were waiting for the allies and had prepared a landing strip for them but they recovered quickly and set up machine guns.  Several gliders were destroyed during the landing and some crews were killed. The Germans took refuge in the village where they resisted all day long and the next day, the maquisards mounted a counterattack.  Isolated, without supplies, the German troops were several times on the verge of being annihilated.  Because of the very poor weather conditions, they could not receive air support on July 22.

Second landing of gliders on July 23, 1944
On July 23, with the return of good weather, twenty DFS 230 gliders and a heavy Gotha Go 242 glider, towed by the same aircraft as on July 21, took off from Chabeuil aerodrome with two hundred men and equipment. Three gliders did not reach the plateau during this 23 July flight. One broke its towing cable, over Marignac-en-Diois and two tug planes were deported more than 25 kilometers south of the planned route. When they took the northern heading towards Vassieux, they were caught in the folds created by the very strong wind and the surrounding mountains. The cables broke. But the others managed to reach the village and this reinforcement helped to break the resistance of the maquisards, especially as the ground troops also began to leave the plateau that same day. It was not until August 15th that the Germans completely evacuated the plateau.

During their presence in Vassieux, the German troops committed numerous abuses on the inhabitants of the village and surrounding hamlets, not hesitating to mutilate and torture. The Red Cross team, arriving in Vassieux on 9 August, discovered 73 inhabitants (out of a population of 430 inhabitants) and 91 resistants massacre while all the houses were completely destroyed.

For its great acts of resistance the town of Vassieux was awarded the Ordre de la Libération.

A Memorial of the Resistance was built at the Col de la Chau, and the departmental Museum of the Resistance, located in the village, preserve the memory of these events of the Second World War.  A cemetery located at the beginning of the road leading to the Memorial, created in 1945 on the initiative of Colonel Pierre Tanant, Chief of staff of the maquis, to bring together the bodies of military and civilian maquisards fallen in combat, also contributes to perpetuate the Remembrance and honoring the victims of the events of July 1944. Other monuments scattered throughout the village and the surrounding countryside recall punctual events. There are also remains of the gliders near the cemetery.

This place is one of the most important places in Vercors and many tourists visit it.