Ming the Mechanic:

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 James2006-12-10 12:39
by Flemming Funch

My friend James Newton was asked by one of the hubs in Viaduc, the biggest French social networking site, to write something about himself. He wrote the short rundown of his life story included below. Which I found so entertaining that it might inspire me to write my own life story in a few paragraphs. I don't think I've ever done that, and it is probably a good exercise. Not very easy, actually, as it is hard to boil many years of experience into just a few words, and it is hard to know what really might be interesting to others and what wouldn't. A CV is usually not very interesting, but the story often is. Anyway, here's James:

I was born in October 1971 in Bristol, Great Britain, of very young parents of Anglo-Irish origins. At the age of two, I was taken to Australia to live with my adoptive parents, who already had two sons.

The latter are what we generally call “globetrotters” who would blindfold their eyes, throw a dart at a world map and wherever it stuck, would drop everything and move there.

We spent several years between Melbourne, Sidney and living in a wooden and corrugated iron house in the bush north of Brisbane, Queensland (check Bauple in Google Earth™ and you’ll get an idea of what it was like). A great life for a child, though life with no running water and no electricity, among the cane toads and snakes, was probably not the ideal life for my parents.

My mother, who was a potter, sold her wares and my father set up a fruit and vegetable stall at the side of the main road along the Great Barrier Reef.

We finally hopped back to the United Kingdom via Malaysia and the Arab Emirates and spent another few years in Cornwall where my Father ran the large garden centre (Plymouth).

European culture was new to me. I had to wear shoes (very painful at first) and found that in the summer, you could expect 17°C and rain, what you get in winter Down Under. I also found that there was another national anthem than Waltzing Mathilda.

The move to France

Lack of Sun and, I suppose, the ever-present urge for adventure finally led Mum and Dad to throw a dart at Southern France.

To me, this move was both thrilling and distressing. The inability to communicate and yet to have to go through exams and so-on was an ordeal, though life in a tent and caravan while doing up a collapsed farmhouse was a real adventure.
My mother set up a new pottery and my father ran a bonsai import and distribution company at Duras, between Bergerac and Marmande. I finished my education and finally settled down (for a while, anyway) in Toulouse.

After the first two-years, the cultural shock of living here eventually wore off and I began to understand a lot better the language and the French way of thinking and started to really enjoy living with the locals. I have now spent over half my life in France between Marmande, Paris and Toulouse and have become a genuine bi-cultural.

I married a French girl eight years ago, from whom I have two lovely children, and recently divorced (perhaps the cultural gap is just too wide for marriage). I now live in a house in Balma.

Coincidence has it that my adoptive parents now live in Bristol.


Professional life has been eclectic to say the least. After a very difficult start in the early Nineties, just after the first Gulf War and in the midst of a recession, I started a short career as an English teacher for land surveyors, Prépa HEC, Math Sup and Math Spé students. Six years on, I decided that, although life as a teacher was relatively easy, it was not my life-long ambition and I was eager to get back to my first aspiration: international business.

On leaving the world of higher education, I made myself a name in the field of geomatics and mapping as the author of the “Newton’s Dictionnaire Bilingue de la Topographie, de la Géographie et de la Géomatique” and was taken on as Marketing Manager by the geographic information systems provider, GeoConcept where I recast the marketing and communications methods and content to develop the new market for geomarketing tools.

Surfing the high-tech wave, I moved on to public relations and then to mobile information technology.

Between 2001 and 2005, as marketing and sales manager for Penbase (specialized in publishing mobile enterprise applications), I went through the works of dealing with a bankruptcy and starting up a new business with Belgian investors. This taught me a lot about technocrats, the Silicon Valley, big money and power struggles.

I now work for Novacom Services, a subsidiary of the CNES and CLS Argos, where I have the position of Strategic Accounts Manager, designing and selling satellite-based tracking and remote reading IT solutions to large companies.

English Ltd.

In the positions I held, I soon realized how important networking is to leading a successful business life in France. This seems even more accentuated in the South.

This combined with the strong demand from friends and friends of friends to have conversations in English lead me to create the English Limited network in December 2005.

The aim of English Ltd. is to enable “Anglo-Saxon” and French executives, managers, business owners and entrepreneurs to practice their language skills in English and French in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere twice a month in downtown Toulouse.

With just under 500 members in one year’s existence, running the network has become quite a task, but I enjoy and, judging by the feedback, so do the members (from what they say, anyway).

The Hub de la Ville Rose and English Ltd. share, to my mind, the same fundamental principles: to offer people the opportunity to share opinions, make new relations, and regularly enjoy a good evening out.

Check out: www.englishlimited.com

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