On Friday, Romualde had said he’d give me a lift to Béthune, instead of me getting the bus, and since I’d finished early I was waiting outside the school. There was a boy waiting at the bus stop who stood and unashamedly stared at me for like 15 minutes, which is a freakishly long time to stare at someone. He also shouted “London” at me. French boys here are very strange. The whole journey to Béthune, Romualde was like “why don’t you just stay with Elodie and Mick the whole year?”, which was very sweet, but I don’t think it’s very practical to stay with a couple with their new, first baby. Met the Hannahs, shockingly in our second home La Halle, which even more shockingly had run out of bread….in France?? Since we don’t eat anywhere else, we went to the typically French Subway.
After sampling the delights of the French cuisine… Une Subway Melt, sil vous plait, we went to our flat viewing. Sat in the reception area of the estate agents for an overly long time before a man came to fetch us, led us out into the hallway, and started going up the stairs, this confused me greatly and started wondering if he was parked upstairs, but realised we were already on the groundfloor. Turns out, the flat was directly above the estate agents. Baffling why we would need to make an appointment to view it, when we were in the estate agents when we booked it, and unsure why no one told us it was above. The flat was nice, very light and airy.
Saturday, I was Not Well. J’etais malade, no feelywellio. I spent the whole day moping about with a migraine, punctuating my day with stressful tasks such as half-hour naps and back-to-back Inbetweeners, until evening came and I made the mistake of accepting an offer of some soup from Elodie. Told her I wasn’t feeling peachy-keen, and after dinner went and sat on the couch where I realised I was going to be sick. Went to the bathroom, turned to close the door, and promptly projectile vomitted on the bathroom wall. I say wall, singular, in actual fact it was 3 walls and the floor – I wish I was exaggerating. It was all kinds of horrendous. I have never, in my life, projectile vomitted. But Lady Fate decided the best time would to be, when I was staying with people who’d kindly taken me in, when I’d just eaten brown soup, and when Mickael had put the first coat of primer on the walls that morning. Brilliant. My first thought was “fuck”, my second was “I’m going to have to clean this up, before even attempting to explain this in french”. Used the majority of a roll of toilet paper to no avail, before nipping to my bathroom across the hall to get my bath-towel, which I wet and started rubbing the walls with. This took the primer off the walls, revealing the green paint below, meaning that not only had I made half the wall sick colour, the other half was now patchy white and green. So I was sitting in France thinking….oh jesus, Strathclyde has not equipped me with the vocab for this, at all. After cleaning up the worst of it, I took my brave pills and went and said to Elodie “I’ve ruined your bathroom”, to which she said “ruin?”. I think she thought I had the wrong verb, so gamely sauntered after me when I gestured to the bathroom. To her credit, she took it pretty well, basically saying the french equivalent of “it happens to the best of us, hen”. I repeatedly told her how embarrassed I was, as she went to get a bucket of soapy water, and insisted since I was ill, I couldn’t possibly be expected to clean it up. I have questionable morals at times, but allowing a heavily pregnant french woman to clean up my sick is a step too far, so cleaned it up more and even managed to send a text to Mickael forewarning him of my incident (which he corrected the grammar of, the next day). I literally cannot put into words how horrendous it was, I really can’t.
Awoke the next day, feeling equally embarrassed and not particularly feeling like showing my face. Luckily, Mickael had gone out and bought pain au chocolat, croissants, baguettes and yummy bakery delights for a proper french breakfast, so that was enough to bring me downstairs. They also seem very reluctant to use plates here for anything not involving a sauce. It’s Shields’ ideal of hell; there were crumbs everywhere. Elodie’s goddaughter was over again for baby-sitting that day too, she’s 3 and unbelievably cute. Here, they call uncles TonTon (oncle) and aunts TaTa (tante), so I got to be TaTa Luciiiiiie for the day. Watched Aladdin in French with her and also looked through her colouring in book entitled “mon premier mots” (my first words), which I learned a lot from, I must say. Much better at colouring inbetween the lines than Ava as well. Went to investigate local produce that evening at some shops, turns out they have more than just friteries (chip shops). Also found out that the french word for candyfloss translates back as “Papa’s beard”…just another french mystery. Mickael also said to me “Romu (Elodie’s uncle) told me you wanted to move out because of the baby”. It was as if he thought that I was desperate to leave, when me living with them has always been temporary. They’re so sweet though and are moving me into the newly-built extension so they can start doing up the baby’s room, but still looking for a flat with Bristow.
Monday was quiet enough that I can’t really remember what I did. Shit hit the fan at night though when I came upstairs and had 7 missed calls and 2 texts spread across both my phones, this always makes me think someone’s died, but luckily it was just the guy I was going to Madrid with, telling me we couldn’t stay with Lauren anymore. Felt like crying, because I thought I wouldn’t get to go, and since I’d had to buy an extra flight thanks to overly-zealous french strikers, I was thinking of the lovely delights I could’ve bought for £150 instead of making a charitable donation to RyanAir (15,000 cola bottles? Half a pair of Miu Mius? A double vodka in the ABC?), and went to bed feeling more than a little gutted. Luckily George seems to know everyone on the planet and just happens to have friends in Madrid we’re now staying with. He did have to warn me that they’re “wild” however, so who knows what they entails.
Also, had another delicious homemade carbonara meal, and didn’t even look puzzled this time when I was presented with a raw egg. Also, usually at lunch Elodie & I are the only girls, so I’ve now managed to pick up some lovely Ch’ti cursing and other such manly chit-chat. Also, got a reference yesterday to giving birth looking like something from Star Wars, so I feel like language is progressing. Elodie & Lauri are off to England this weekend to pick up a car, so gave them my remaining pounds-sterling, with a handy guide to how much each coin/note would buy them in fish&chips/guiness etc. It’s quite the cultural exchange.
Also, FINALLY, sorted Social Security. This means that I can now get ill as much as I want, and a doctor will tend to me! Typical of the french system, the first office we went to (after being told to go there by a lady on the phone who deals with such matters) told us to go to another. The next office, I was such a novelty that no less than 6 employees came over just to look at me while the lady who was dealing with me filled out some forms.
Tuesday was the day I embarked on my 3-countries,1-day voyage. Got up bright and early, and was showered, packed and ready to go a good hour before I was due to leave (Shields’ genes are kicking in), I even made sandwiches for my trip! Despite my excellent planning, I forget the French are constantly on strike, and that there’s a different timetable every day for the trains, so turns out my train was half an hour late. Did give me time to go and get a beautiful photo taken to buy a railcard, however. Since it’s for ages 12-25, you show ID when buying it to prove you’re a young’un. So this, plus explaining my name to the woman about 4 times, still led to my railcard branding me as “Lucie Emma”. They just want to French you up over here.
Met two american assistants I knew on the train, who were also going to Charleroi airport, bizarrely to go to Sweden, but I think everyone here bases their trips around what RyanAir can offer them for 17quid. Anyway, was nice to not be travelling myself since I only had a vague idea where Belgium was. The train journey from Lille was fairly uneventful, the minute we got into Belgium it was just like “oh. so this is Belgium, eh? What a lovely industrial building/expanse of grey/absence of any form of charming Chocolat-esque chocolate shops”, but to be fair I’m guessing Glasgow doesn’t look too braw from a train window. The sights of the shithole that was Charleroi continued after the train when we boarded the shuttlebus, it’s just all very rundown and a bit shit. At the airport everyone greets you with “parlez-vous francais?” and this presents a minefield because you don’t want to be a dick and say no, but the minute you do they start rapid-firing french at you. The security man had a rare-tear explaining to me I had to take my belt off, even though I wasn’t wearing one, and also asked me to empty my pockets, despite me not actually having pockets. I’m not sure he actually worked there, maybe he was just mental. I also had the brilliant RyanAir logic of another man making me put a bag of food I had within my case so it conformed to the 1-piece-of-hand-luggage-only rule. Brilliant fun standing at the front of the queue, struggling to squish a bag into my holdall which was already, quite literally, bursting at the seams. Charleroi also lost points for being generally boring and charging 3.30€ for a bottle of water.
Flight landed in such a hilariously bad way, it was the roughest landing ever, the man next to me made a comment to me in spanish about it and I was just like “ahhh si” and then the french man across from me said something to me in french about it. The english man next to me, who I would’ve had a hope in hell of understanding, remained silent. I reckon if Ryanair put their prices up by £1 they could train their pilots.