Mon Dieu

On Friday Mickael came and spoke lots of french at me and I picked out “faire les courses” and “Béthune”…..for some reason completely forgot what faire les coursesmeant even though you learn in standard grade it’s going for les messages. Anyways, turns out Mickael was saying he’d take me a drive to Béthune and then go shopping. Béthune was definitely a sight for sore eyes, there were tonnes of shops, a train station, people……and even pubs! I think I’ve fallen in love, it’s probably no bigger than Old Kilpatrick but it looks like a metropolitan paradise compared with the rest of the area. I have however discovered that there’s une boîte in Noeux, that’s a nightclub, to speakers of the queen’s. Hilariously and inexplicably it’s called Le Lagon Bleu. Speaking of nautical nightclubs, apparently there’s a nightclub in Lille which is covered in sand and serves only cocktails…..parfait!

After taking in the sights of Béthune, Mickael took me to this big artificial lake, next to a big artificial ski slope. I like that they wanted the sea and snow, didn’t have it, so just made it. Mohammed and his mountain eh? So, there’s a massive lake for watersports (no giggling, please) with a fountain in the middle, with a fake sandy beach at one side and a kids’ playground at the other, and mini-golf at one side. He also tried to teach me some Ch’ti, which is a local dialect, more than slang but less than a language, I think. We actually managed to have proper conversation yesterday, Elodie’s mum died suddenly last year and it’s still very fresh for her, and they’re also expecting their first baby in December, so I think being able to talk about profound emotion is a sign my french is getting better. So after a walk around the lake, both of us occasionally consulting my omnipresent dictionary, we went to faire les courses in Noeux. It’s bizarre that wee things like supermarkets being different is the strangest thing in another country. There is literally more cheese and wine than I’ve ever seen in my life, 2 full aisles of cheese! I think they just put it out for my benefit though because apart from one man buying 5 wheels of camembert (??) nobody was in the aisle. They don’t have carrier bags in supermarkets here, but weirdly hardly anyone brings their own, they just fill their trolley back up then put it all in the boot.

Elodie told me when she was an assistant, in Stockton-on-Tees she put on 6kg in a month and a half, which i think is like 2 stone?! I feel I could go the same way if this pasta-and-cheese-and-bread-and-crepes situation keeps up. I also felt it would be rude and an inconvenience to mention I didn’t eat beef, so I’ve eaten more beef this week than I have in my life. What seemed appropriate schoolwear in Scotland (pencil skirts & dresses) now seems more porno-version-of-Mad Men than acceptable, given that Elodie goes to school in jeans and tshirts, and I think putting on any weight will just make the situation go literally tits-up.

On Friday night, Elodie was babysitting so Mickael and I watched Gremlins, it was brillianten francais, I knew what was going on and understood when Gizmo got scared and shouted “trop clair! trop clair!”. I think the french should use the 364.5 days of the year they’re on strike (they’re currently on strike because Sarkozy’s trying to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62) to work in the arts to be honest, all the films and TV shows here are dubbed US shows, with the occasional british one thrown in. The music here, aside from Daft Punk is all, according to the french – nulle. It’s strange that with a population of 60million they can’t do better. They’re also losing stuff in translation, I saw the video for California Gurls and when Ms Perry sings “Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top”, they’d translated it to mean “Bikinis in the style of Daisy Duck”…..I’m sure she’s got her fair share of raunchy bikinis….

On Saturday Mickael took me shopping to Bruay-La-Buissière, which had such french sights as Buffalo Bar & Grill, Subway and McDonalds. The shops were not what you’d expect from the chicest country in the world, I’ve documented one of the tops for an example of the horror show of epic proportions that it was. However, it was strange, there were pieces that were so on-trend it made me wonder if they’d been there since the first time they were fashionable, leather dresses as seen at the A/W 2010 Céline show seemed a bit out of place!

Today was the baptisme of Elodie’s cousin’s son, Léo. I think Him Upstairs sensed there was a non believer heading to his house so created some biblical rainfall, meaning I needed to wear boots with my pretty dress. sadface. So when we got to the chapel the dedicated here-because-we-like-God-and-not-because-its-an-occasion folk were still there, so we lingered at the back. It was really weird, I’ve not been in a church since Primary 6 when I realised I still got a Creme Egg if I didn’t go to the easter-service the school organised (much to my lasting delight, I’m also apparently the only person ever to opt-out of the Gavinburn P7 nativity play because I was a precocious and opinionated heathen). So they occasionally burst into a line of a song, which was pretty startling. The priest was also hilarious, I’m not sure if he was actually a priest or he just liked the robes, he kept just smiling and stretching his arms out, I presume to show that his robe made him look like he had wings. I didn’t make out a single word the entire time he spoke, aside from “notre vie”, reassuringly though Elodie said he had a really difficult accent to make out. He was also the first black person, or indeed non-white person I’ve seen the whole time I’ve been here. So there were 3 babies and a wee boy in the same ceremony, so we watched them all get water on their heads about 8 times which I’m not sure happens in Scotland (the last christening I was at, I was 6 and late, so sat outside with my gran eating chocolate limes). Anyway, it was all a bit Rafiki & Simba. One of the marainnes(godmothers) was actually there wearing a fleece, jeans and her hair up in a clip. I was, I feel justly, horrified.

After the ceremony we went to the town hall for another short ceremony, as the baby’s grandfather is the deputy-mayor and wanted to baptise his grandson before he retired, it was very sweet. Then, sauntered through to the reception room where there were shot glasses of tiny tuna niçoise salads and ones with prawn cocktail, all arranged in tiers, nexts to baskets of cheese muffins and sandwiches. There were also inexplicably mice made out of eggs in amongst the appetisers (I’m sure I took a photo). The table next to it interested me far more however – strawberry champagne. J’ai bu du champagne français en France, c’était parfait! Elodie was away mingling with her family at times, and I’m glad she did because I’d hate to be babysat, but there were a couple of times when I was like….where do I stand now? Decided to do the my-momma-raised-me-right thing and go and thank Léo’s mum for having me. Everyone was so welcoming and made an effort to speak their most basic french to me, most of which I still replied to with pardonnez-moi?.Also realised I’d had 3 glasses of champagne before half 12 and didn’t want to make my debut into la société française absolutely Karbon-Tuesdayed, so paced myself by pouring myself an orange juice, but it turns out it was rather potent rum and orange, took this as a sign to never pace myself again. Elodie’s brother, Lori and Mickael arrived at this point and eventually we all got seated for the buffet. It was actually the most beautifully decorated event ever, the theme was papillons (butterflies) and brown and green, and I even had my own butterfly place setting, with my name spelled correctly….this doesn’t happen in Scotland, a butterfly-shaped napkin and a tiny green ceramic jar filled with brown and green smarties, with “Léo, 26/09/2010” on it, as a favour. I won’t describe it more since I took photos – I’ve taken all my photos of views and food…..not one has a person in it.

So I don’t know what scottish christenings are like but this one had barrels of wine – literally barrels, 3 types of champagne, 2ft butterflies made of meat, and for some unknown reason there seemed to be a lot of novelty wigs kicking about. At one point there was also a conga, and french conga is evidently different, as the conga joins into a circle eventually and 2 couples go into the circle, you both get one knee as if you’re proposing (CALM DOWN, SHIELDS, NO ONE ACTUALLY PROPOSED TO ME, YOUR WORST FEARS OF ME GETTING MARRIED IN FRANCE ARE NOT COMING TO FRUITION), kiss each other on the cheek 4 times, then get up and one of you leaves and the remaining person picks someone else to come in, all very bewildering when Lauri drags you into a circle for no apparent reason. The music was also a heady brew of unusual choices, my personal favourite being: Afroman -Because I Got High (quel est le mot pour ce type de cigarettes en anglais, Luis? “a joint!” ajoined, no? ahhhhjon?). At one point Lauri and his cousin, Jacques, were going through beer at a rate of knots and he referred to Jacques as his “Padawan”, then asked if I understood the term. It’s strange that your ears can be set to french-only, and not in tune to Star Wars lingo, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I think I might be getting a personality in France now, when you can’t be funny and can’t be as eloquent and articulate as you would be in english, you lose your personality, but as my french (gradually) improves I think my personality grows. I managed to get Lauri a good burn today and if everyone laughs you know you’re not the quiet scottish girl anymore.

When I came home I Skyped the family, ended up talking to them for an hour, with Rhuraidh putting the laptop at my place at the table, so I had my normal view since they were eating dinner, Shields even put a teeny bowl of soup in front of me, she’s so cute it hurts!

Bonne nuit, mon coeur!

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