Mon Premier Jour

So the last post saw me off to Les Expendables (That’s “The Expendables”, for the anglophones), I actually managed to make out most of what was happening, Eric Roberts – bad, Stallone – got a semi over latina girl, Jason Statham – cockney.

Yesterday was get-a-bank-account day, Mickael asked me which bank I wanted to join, the only bank I knew was the BNP so just said whatever one he was with, which led me to the aptly titled Banque Populaire. So went with Mickael to the bank and sat down in the office of my new banker, Christophe. He asked me where I was from and when I told him I got one of the two responses I get from all men that ask me: “ahhhh Glasgow Rangers”, I’m sure you can work out the other response. So, in France for some reason you have to pay for a chip & pin card you can use in shops, or you can get one you can only take money out at ATMs, and as well, they just love paperwork and small-print here so it was one of those Pay-Attention,-Brain,-This-is-Important moments. Luckily, I was playing with Tornade the cat before I came out and must have got cat hairs on my clothing (which I also think I must be allergic to) and one managed to get in my eye during the meeting, so whilst nodding and pretending to know all the french banking chat, my eye was watering and swelling to twice its size. I feel my concentration was still probably on a bar with most financial-dealings though. So after signing about 8,000 documents, I was registered as Mlle D. Christophe very kindly waived the fees for me, I think he took pity on me since I was optically-disabled and foreign. After that, Mickael had to drop something off at one of their friend’s houses, so pulled up in the drive of this massive house and saw his friend standing in the garden. At this point I got out the car and realised one of my shoes had remained in the car, casually kidded on I’d dropped something and leant in and got it. I think I was born with a level of grace Audrey (or Jealous-Hepburn, as I call her) would be envious of. Shortly afterwards, his wife (an English teacher) arrived home and we spoke in french, with her asking me if I’d visited France before, and gave my well-practiced speil of “only once, when I was 8. I was staying with family in London, my aunt’s French and she wanted to take me for the day”, she told me I spoke french very well, then we switched to english, during which she told me I spoke very, very quickly and with a strong accent. In my mind I was deliberately speaking so slowly and with such a lack of accent I was Natasha Kaplinsky on a YouTube clip failing to load. Turns out my french is better than my english. Who knew? Last night for dinner I indulged in the french tradition of breakfast-for-dinner. Rhuraidh & I have been doing this for years, I didn’t realise we were so continental. So toast & nutella and hot chocolate….diabetes-inducingly good! They really do love Nutella here, I was talking to Daniel the other day (we’re like two old women) and he swears he saw a 1kg tub in St Etienne’s Lidl. Our conversation also included “what kind of milk are you on? UHT?”. But yes, Nutella is holy here, I saw a mother absent-mindedly spreading it on her young son’s head the other day and eating him. Honest.

Woke up today at 5:30GMT….admittedly 6:30 here but still ungodly, I opened my blinds and it was pitch-black outside. So today was My First Day, Elodie and I arrived just before 8, met another of the english teachers in the staff-room and hunted for the headmaster. Failing to find him, I went to sit in the staffroom until Elodie’s first class was over. Since I had no books with me, I cracked out my ever-handy dictionary and wrote out some grammar notes (past participles and conjugation of the irregular perfect, for fellow linguists). Also found my locker in the staffroom, despite being mine it does say “Emma D” on the front, as they thought the L part was surely a mistake. Once Elodie returned we went back to the headteacher’s office and I met Monsieur Flament (aka Mr Flamingo), lovely chap who was delighted with life. Elodie then passed me on to him and he took me to the admin office to meet some staff. He started telling the staff that because I was very young and pretty, the troisième class were all going to try anddraguer me. I had no idea what draguer was so looked it up, it turns out it means ‘to chat up’, I just laughed and wondered what the correct response to being told that 15 year olds are going to chat you up was, wondered if I should mention my clean criminal record and enhanced disclosure Scotland. So after that, and the linguistic faux-pas of asking a lady I’d just met “et toi?” Mr Flamingo passed me onto one of the surveyants (we don’t have them in the UK, they monitor the playground and deal with absence etc) who spoke english. We then went to have some tea in another staffroom with Mr Flamingo and a few others. The surveyant was so lovely, a lady asked me if I wanted tea, which even I could understand, but the surveyant repeated it in english for me. Mr Flamingo then opened up a big pack of pastry-cake things and one of the men went to reach for one but Mr F held up his hand to him and went “[my name has been deleted lest I be googled]!” and beckoned me over, to take the first one. I am now the headteacher’s pet, if only Mr Young could see me now. Then, Mr Flamingo gave me a full tour of the school and met up with Elodie, to take me home. Made it home for 10:30, in time for more tea and Murder, She Wrote (bizarrely, it’s inexplicably named after a figure-skating move here).

After a long relax and a quick lunch, I headed to my other school with Elodie. As we were walking in she told me she had bad memories of the school and used to hate working here…..parfait! The whole school inside is covered in these amazing paintings and sculptures the kids have done and looks very colourful. Everyone was at lunch at this point, but Elodie scoped out the Deputy-Head who barely acknowledged my presence, and just said the english teachers were at lunch. We walked to the canteen and I was introduced to the 3 english teachers there, caught the tail end of lunch, had coffee and crumble-tart…..coffee, which I hate but was polite enough to drink a good half-cup of. The teachers were all very welcoming, with the History-Geography teacher asking me lots of questions, in english, about Scotland and the correct pronunciation of Edinburgh, this led the other teachers to talking about oddly-pronounced british place names, so managed to crack out some conversation about Milngavie (Pronounced Mill-Guy). At one point, one of the teachers, from Croatia, started telling everyone Croatian (?) phrases and it was brilliant not to be the only one who didn’t understand the lingo. I then went to try and meet the head, but since we couldn’t find him one of the english teachers, Isabel, and a student teacher, Justine, gave me a tour of the building, went to the library where I was introduced to all the kids, who said hello to me in english. Then we returned to the staffroom and I didn’t really have anything to do so sat reading a holiday brochure for Greece. Since there was nothing to do, Justine offered to give me a lift home, but since it’s only 10 minutes walk I said she didn’t need to bother, so she walked with me. She’s only a year older than me, and absolutely lovely, she spent her assistantship in Stratford-upon-Avon so sounds like she’s from there, it’s strange, she sounds more English than French. She was so helpful, she offered, without me even mentioning flats, to phone numbers of adverts I was interested in as she knew that was the worst part of flathunting abroad. She also offered to visit flats with me since she knows a bit about househunting since her dad’s an estate-agent and I have no car. I think she enjoyed having someone her own age to speak english to, rather than the basic stuff she did in classes with the kids. She said the worst thing about the north was there was nothing to do unless you were in the city, but that her and her friends went out in Lille often so we swapped numbers and we’re going to go for a drink at some point. I told you France was like dating, you get excited when you meet someone cool, swap numbers and arrange to go for drinks with them. The people here have been unbelievably helpful and generous, considering I’m just some stranger that happens to be staying in the same area as them for 8 months. I’m also meeting up with one of the other assistants tomorrow, who I’ve been speaking to online, in Bethune for a wander, so it’ll be fun to explore together and speak the Queen’s!

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