Les Mecs Français

People always ask me here if I miss Scotland, my family and my friends. Honestly, of course I do, but it doesn’t bother me to be away. I think it was the same when I was in Canada, because I’m the one away, it’s probably worse for my family back home than it is for me. It’s still such a novelty to be away and because I’m loving it here, I don’t think about what I might be missing in Glas Vegas. The main thing Canada taught me, however, is that, whilst things may change for you when you’re away, nothing changes at all at home. This was however shattered when I got a text from my lovely cousin Pamela to say that she was moving to Houston in a few months. This caused me to excuse myself from the living room, telling Mickael what she’d said, to go into my room to call her. He doesn’t speak English but I’m sure he realised how shocked I was when he heard a door close and the next words just being “Pamela!! What the fuck?!”. Funnily, he knows swear words and nothing else.

The French have managed to display their brilliant levels of social skills this week. The first instance wasn’t really that bad, but naturally I had to wind him up about it. We were at the friterie [chippy] and Mick asked me why I go running, and asked if it was because I wanted to be skinny. So naturally, I smirked and asked if he thought I wasn’t skinny in the first place. This led him to tell me roughly 47 times how embarassed he was and told me I was skinny already, bless him. Naturally I took the piss and wound him up. Naturally.

Elodie’s example was however, motifying. Lauri was over and I was happily sitting, flipping through newly-developped photos of Lily (cutest baby in the world) and Elo was trying to convince Lauri to let her set him up with our cutie-patooty Spanish colleague, and he said something about wanting a Scottish girl instead, so I looked up and laughed and since Elodie always gives him into trouble for hitting on me, she said “Lauri! Will you stop hitting on her!! Luis, do you want Lauri?”. You may notice how simple the phrase “do you want Lauri?” is, but naturally, since I’m a foreigner, I feigned ignorance, like I didn’t understand this complex French grammar. I then had the mortifying experience of thinking…what is socially-acceptable to respond to this question. The correct answer is to make a jokey comment about having Elodie as a sister-in-law. I essentially opted for “ehhh” until Elodie said “say no!” and I obliged. Felt bad about this, so called him “petit copain” when he was leaving.

Last weekend I was through in Lille, got drunk with the girls, had a bit of a dance, standard! Our new kebab-shop owner friends served us whilst turning others away, I think they appreciate the high-amount of tortilla espanol we buy there. The night’s blurred for me though since it was a whole 8 days ago….my memory is definitely a sieve. The next day I met the two Hannahs and went to see The King’s Speech, in English….cheaters.

Funnily enough ended up going for dinner with Lauri last weekend. Was thinking “oh this could be potentially awkward to tell my friend I’m going out with her brother tonight” but she was happy, so alls well. Tried to go to a restaurant in Lens, but shockingly since it was Sunday, it was shut. I still do not understand what everyone here does on a Sunday. Ended up going to Bethune and went to a place Lisa would’ve loved, it’s entire menu was based on potatoes. yummy. Afterwards went to an Irish bar, which was not the same as our Irish bars. I think someone needs to explain you have to glue fiddles and decorative plates to the walls for it to be Irish. Naturally, I got tipsy enough to be told I was “tout rouge”, always classy. I was also in the oh-that’s-awkward position, when Lauri was at the bathroom a guy came up to the table and asked if he could buy me a drink and I adopted a confused look and said “oh, sorry, I don’t speak French” and the French being French, didn’t just take the hint, he said “Yes you do, I heard you talking to that guy”. Any other country in the world, someone would just go “oh right…”. Went to Lauri’s for a bit and reminisced about 90s dance tunes before heading home. Once again, no one seems to bother that everyone’s out drinking all night then drives home.

Classes this week were again, mixed. Had kids-say-the-funniest-things moments, always seemingly around Barack Obama. We were playing that game where you have a post-it stuck on your head with a name on it and you ask questions to discover your identity. So, when the kids couldn’t get it, I allowed other kids to give them clues, but in English. So instead of a clue such as “he’s a president” or “he’s American”, we were treated to “he has big black ears”. I’m also continually telling the kids they can’t describe someone as “he’s a black”. I had one class of proper horrors though, there were only 5 of them because there was a mix-up with timetables, so it was a bit of a last-day-at-school atmosphere, and I had to write notes home for a couple of them, then at the end of the lesson, when they were leaving, kids from other classes were hanging around at the doorway and one of them knocked over a bucket of water that was next to the door. Writing it down seems like nothing happened, but when you’ve had an hour of kids being fuckers and then your classroom is suddenly flooded, I was just like…..I need a drink. I have some right wee cuties though, when one of the kids gets their identity, I let them pick the next person to play, and one of them chose me, so I was asking them all questions and it was just nice, they were all loving it and wee cuties. Bless.

Mick was working a lot this week, so I spent a lot of time helping out with Lily. I love spending time with her, and I’ve learnt such valuable skills as nappy-changing, getting a dummy in her mouth before she decides against it and bathtime. She’s just unbelievably precious, she’s so happy just to lie in your arms and look up at you. It’s definitely going to be really hard to leave my wee French family behind.

On Friday I went to Lille and stopped by our kebab shop to bring in dinner for the girls. Brilliantly, we’re now at the stage where he asks me what salad I want for each one and I’m like “aww shit, it’s for Ava, I dunno, I’ll call her” and he’s like “ahh ok, Ava takes this and this”. He only charged me for 2 of them, I think we might be besties. He also has a cat that lives under the counter. In Glasgow, I would never eat somewhere there was a cat fleeing about, but here I find it charming. Later, on the way out to a club, we passed the shop so nipped in to say hi and he announced to the customers that we were “les clients les plus adorables”, I’m not sure why they weren’t major jels…

Headed out to Latina again last night, where I met a guy who I’d met for like 5 minutes a couple of weeks ago, and given my number to, more just for the it’s-always-more-awkward-to-say-no school of thought. So he texted me, I never text back, he texted me again saying that he must’ve done something wrong that I wouldn’t text him, but it was nice to meet me, I never text back……then that night in Latina he asked me why I hadn’t text him. The strangest thing is, this is what all guys are like here, this is just the norm, they’re so persistent and so forward. In some ways its good they don’t fuck around, but it’s a bit of a culture shock. You’d have restraining orders for less in Britain.

Woke up late-late the next day, next to Ava and after still-drunk morning chat, headed to meet Hudson for some shopping. Decided a like 4ish to head home, and realised our next train wasn’t until half 5 [standard, brilliant transport] so killed time until we could get that, then sat on the train for half an hour while it repeatedly told us it was delayed [standard] which meant we missed our connection [standard] and had to wait an hour in a train station further down the line [standard]. Decided to go to a cafe nearby lest I piss myself, and we were mildy amused to see some men wearing feather boas, wigs and skirts for a stag night. Their merriment quickly turned to silent and irreversible shame however, when another stag party entered (clearly France’s cafe culture merits any stag party to make a stop there), wearing…..Kilts (for some reason, French tradition for a stag night….), fur coats with beer towels sewn on, fluoro fishnets, headresses and hats comprised of 8inch pheasant feathers, felt flowers, beer mats and soft toys into double figures. One man even had an ice skating Mickey and Minnie Mouse on his hat. Oh, and of course they’d blacked up. I literally cannot describe the brilliance. When walking up the stairs, one man decked it roughly 9 times. We left the cafe and were soon rejoined by the men at the train station. I’ve seen many magnificient sights in my life, I’ve even seen the northern lights, but none so brilliant as seeing a group of men who look like minstrels who’ve fallen in a craft shop, covered in glue, wheel away the customer service desk at a train station, set up a full bar, including cheese savouries, while the train man just looks on helplessly. It was the fact they were all just leaning on the desk, standing round talking, casual as you like, with the only sign something was amiss being the fact the desk had a large “accueil” [reception] sign protruding from it.

Monday was Valentine’s Day/Shield’s birthday/ day off….so I called Shields then headed into town, where I managed to restrain myself and only spent 40euros in H&M. My Valentine’s day peaked when a man asked me out. On an escalator. In the medium of rap. I also went to the rectorat on Monday, which is like the regional head office for education, I guess, to ask about extending my contract until July. I had to leave my passport at the gate before even getting to the reception (French bureacracy at its best). Good news though is that they told me if I get both my headmasters to sign a letter to say they want me to stay, I’m jammin! Spoke to Mr Flamingo (Monsieur Flament, if you will) today who was absolutely delighted I wanted to stay, so just need to get the headmaster at my other school to sign. I don’t even know his name, he never speaks and generally looks like a homeless person. I won’t open by telling him this observation.

Fingers crossed

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