Patisserie and Promenade

On Thursday morning I left the house for the first time myself… .I realised that since arriving late on Tuesday night, and having left the house on Wednesday, only briefly, and in the car, I had no bearings and had seen none of the village. Left Mickael drinking a bowl of hot chocolate (a bowl! Route Nationale is unfolding before my eyes) and stepped outside. The sun’s disappeared now, replaced on the weather report with a lot of angry looking thunder and lightnings. Luckily being so out the way from everything else means that Mazingarbe evidently didn’t get the memo to have thunder, and instead made a half-arsed attempt at light rain. So I began my walk, hesitating briefly at the end of streets about which way to go, and stopping abruptly in the middle of roads and about-turning, looking as lost, as only a tourist can look. It was weirdly exciting, don’t misunderstand me, Mazingarbe is not an exciting town, despite Mickael cheerily pointing out the large chemical factory on the outskirts, noting that if it blew up the whole town would be gone. I think it was just exciting to think Je suis ici, ICI en france. The town is very picturesque, with lots of pretty little houses with flowers in every window, and a complete mishmash of architecture, with some houses looking as if they’re on holiday from Spain or Cornwall. I walked past a couple at the end of the street across from mine, who disconcertingly stopped talking as I walked past, then when I was a few feet away, I heard “elle est anglaise”.

I found a sign for “Collège Blaise Pascal”, one of the schools I’m working at, which should have been easy to find since A. Elodie drove me past it yesterday to show me it B. it’s also “3 minutes drive” from the house I’m staying at and C. as afore-mentioned, it was sign-posted. Needless to say I didn’t find it and settled for a hearty wander. The streets were covered in old confetti, which I found very strange until I noticed posters everywhere for a festival they’d had 4 days before I arrived. I also walked past a charming and cute old lady, who smiled at me and we exchanged bonjours, and a second after I passed, I heard an 80-a-day cough and her spitting on the ground……belle! I remembered a bit in Eat, Pray, Love (and yes, I do hate myself for making a reference so 2010 it could be carbon-dated alongside Lindsay Lohan’s probabtion record) where she talks about how it’s as if someone’s created Italy just to help her learn Italian, as she marvels at everyone speaking the language, with all the signs and shops following suit.

Aside from such language-gaffes as trying to tell Elodie my ears weren’t quite in tune to french yet and then having to quickly backpedal when I realised she thought I had a permanent hearing problem, I think I’m getting marginally better. Although, I still feel like everything I say is really basic. Mickael, horrified to realise my walk hadn’t taken in the town’s Hôtel de Ville (town hall, not as you may think the town’s hotel), promptly drove me there. It’s surprisingly big and grand for such a small town, with large gardens surrounding it, and I felt frustrated that all I could do to illustrate my genuine intrest, and gratitude that this man had taken me into his home and was driving me to places he felt would interest me was muster a few relevant questions and “c’est très jolie!”. I also realised Mickael is actually Rhuraidh but 6 years older, I don’t know why it took us driving together, him wearing a Spiderman tshirt and Weezer playing to realise, but they’re very similar! Tried to explain Scott Pilgrim to him, as he’d obviously love it, but I think he thought I’d made a mistake by saying “it’s this boy, Scott Pilgrim, and he meets a girl, and he wants to be her boyfriend, but he has to fight her 7 evil exes”.

Spent some time flathunting online, it’s an absolute nightmare, I’m teaching in two wee villages called Noeux-Les-Mines and Mazingarbe, but looking to stay in Béthune, a bigger town with a bit more to do nearby, but so far there’s been nothing. Hoping to make a trip in at some point this week to find some newspapers/shop windows that might have the flat of my dreams, I’d settle for a bed and wifi for under €300, maybe a bit of heating too…

This weekend I’ve been invited to the baptême (christening) of Elodie’s cousin’s son, and in the spirit of go-to-the-opening-of-an-envelope-if-you’re-invited, I’ve chucked away my thoughts on religion and managed to find something vaguely long enough to wear in the eyes of Mon Dieu. Apparently I shouldn’t mention I’m not baptised in case people think I’ll burn in hell. Elodie asked me if people in Glasgow were religious….

E&M also have 3 cars for some reason (one for Elodie, one for Mickael and …… one for the baby due in December, peut-être?) and they offered to lend me one while I’m over here. I had to politely decline, I feel crashing my Clio into a tree was enough damage to french cars for one year. However, since France offers little to no public transport, I might yet take up cycling…..i’s really no surprise everyones on bikes here.

This morning I was mistaken for a french person. A man on the street asked me for directions and I cheerily told him the equivalent of “sorry, I don’t know, I’m scottish and I arrived here since 2 days”….which is not only grammtically incorrect, but also factually since I’ve been here 3 days.

Also had my first pain au chocolat today, was in a patisserie trying to find newspaper classifieds in my all-consuming flat hunt, and felt obliged to buy something. So a nice lady wearing the most makeup I’ve ever seen on a human face sold me one, they’re unbelievable, and much better than the pish Asda passes off as them. I’m really shocked though, because since I got here, everything I’ve had has been either covered in cheese (meals) or nutella (snacks), or cheese & nutella (we eat bread/crepes at 4ish for a snack) and here I was eating bread, made out of pastry, filled with chocolate, I don’t know why everyone here doesn’t have rickets or heart attacks.

Naturally, I remain flatless, I’ve checked all the classifieds and in the local supermarket for notices but there’s le hee haw so hopefully going to try and make it to Béthune asap to have a look for notices there…..

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