époustouflant

This week definitely had its highs and lows of la vie française. On Thursday one of my teachers was off on a training day so it meant that all but my last class was cancelled, so I started at 15h35 and finished at 16:30….not bad! Afterwards went to a retiral do for one of the teachers. My school’s corridors are covered in murals that one of the art teacher is currently doing, and for her retirement, she was painted into a mural outside her room, which was very sweet, so this was unveiled at the start then we headed back to the main room. They really go all out for stuff like this here, the room was all amazingly decorated (as is toujours the case here) and once again there were cocktails a-go-go. I have no fucking idea what was going on though, I understood all the French but didn’t understand the sentiment, they had the retiree (?) on stage with another couple of teachers and they all did a kind of psychological test where answers given were akin to the type of cheeky-cheesy answers not seen since Cilla’s days on Blind Date.  Then they had a really well done PowerPoint presentation [oddly soundtracked by Eminem and that song from Pulp Fiction that the Black Eyed Peas sampled] which I actually felt really emotional watching, which is strange since obviously I don’t know the lady that well. Many edible delights were taken before getting a lift home, popping in to say hi to Lily getting her bath then went for some dinner with Lauri.

The restaurant was really laidback, and since the menu was written in Ch’ti Lauri basically had to translate everything for me….it honestly looks like Spanish or English, but mental. We then got a bowl which was mixed raw fruit and veg, and a plate of sauces….kiwi and pepper sauce actually go rather well together, I discover….. before getting our mains. The restaurants thing is to serve half chickens with no cutlery, which I thoroughly enjoyed, nice and rustic. I’m sure I’ve spoken before about how I think Pas de Calais has a lot in common with Glasgow and Scotland. It turns out no more so when you’re sitting in a restaurant eating chicken with your hands, to the tune of Irish music interspersed with Come on Eileen, and the guy you’re with is reminiscing about Henrik Larsson and Gazza (ok, well to be fair in Glasgow one would be worshipped and the other would be branded a wife-beating English alky or a long haired poof…delete as applicable).  It turns out our waitress had spent a year living with a Scottish family, and when I came back from the bathroom Lauri was like “she just told me you eat chips and pasta at the same time….that’s not true is it??”, I then attempted to explain macaroni pies, chips cheese & gravy, pizza crunches and deep fried mars bars…..it’s surprisingly difficult to explain fine Scots cuisine without the vocab for “batter” and “pastry”.

On the drive back, Lauri pulled over since he realised I still hadn’t driven in France and demanded I try. This may be the last time he asks me to drive, since I repeatedly smacked my hand into the door, looking for the gearstick and repeatedly crossed through cross-roads apparently I didn’t have priority in. I also scratched his hubcap…..brilliant driving skills! I did tell him I wasn’t the best driver in Scotland. Went to a bar after where it was mandatory to check our coats (france is weird), then there was a bar brawl at the pool tables. Luckily the bouncers had it covered before the cliché police had to get involved. Had a few drinks at France’s reasonable tariff of 28 euros for 2 doubles. Finally got home as Mickael was getting ready for work, stoating in half cut.

Friday was utter hell. Despite getting in at 5, I woke up at 8 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so decided to go to my school to get them to sign the letter for staying on, that they’d asked me to come back that day to get done. Waited for forever to see the principal, who told me he was waiting to hear back from the vice-principal at my other school, and despite me pointing out she’d already signed it, he asked that I come back….again, that afternoon. When I got home I told Elodie what he’d said and she decided to phone the vice-principal, since she works at that school. So I clearly knew from the phone call there was a problem, and when she got off the phone, Elodie was like “there’s a problem with your other school, they don’t want to renew your contract because of ‘an incident’ with a pupil”. Since I couldn’t remember backhanding or violating any pupils, I asked her what she was talking about and she said that apparently one time in class, I’d been writing at the board and a kid had pulled his trousers down and up again. SO…..the teacher of the class knew, who told the principal, but didn’t tell me because she didn’t want to be embarassed. SO….instead of telling me what was going on, the principal told me to come back, twice. I felt so embarassed that I was finding out all this information, like fifth hand, and that my nice school knew all about it. In the end the vice principal at my nice school lied to my other school and said I was in the middle of a big project with the pupils and that they’d like to take over my full contract, after my contract with both schools ends. Had to go back to both schools that afternoon, to get a revised letter signed, but finally got it done so hopeflly it works out.

On Sunday I was meant to be babysitting Lily while Elodie went to Romu’s house for little Romualde’s 10th birthday, but cutely he was disappointed I wasn’t going, so I ended up going. Made 35 cupcakes that day, with yummy buttercream icing, normally on a Sunday my level of productivity is vomitting and wondering why I drink, so it made a nice change. Lauri came and picked me up and I managed to convince Elodie to come later and just bring Lily. Their family is so welcoming, Elodie’s gran always comes and talks to me if I’m looking a bit lost so mingled for a bit before the cakes got brought out and we all got seated. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, they know how to do a birthday cake, these frenchies. Chamagne, however, not so much, naturally we all had a glass, but then after that there was still a ton left and Romu would offer everyone and hardly anyone partook but naturally I’m of the school of “refuse nothing but blows”, so ended up drinking far more than anyone there and was mock-outraged,secretly-chuffed when Romu was like “thats brilliant, she can drink like a guy”.

Their grandparents are so Ch’ti, like her granda has such a strong accent I understand about 5% of what he says. Since Lauri had taught me lots of Ch’ti phrases they got wheeled out like I was a 5 year old learning new words, it was like “what’s this? *points at a chair*”, “what’s Ch’ti for ‘its raining’?” which delighted them all that I knew the lingo. However, occasioanly I don’t listen to anything that’s going on, and if they use a lot of slang someone will be like ‘do you understand that?’ then tell me the proper French for it, so I hadn’t been listening at all and Lauri asked me if I understood so I just said no and he said, in English “he said ‘he telephoned me, and when he telephoned me I was in my underpants and I had wood’”….fuck knows what preceeded this. There was also a prolonged conversation about nipples that weirdly I understood every word of.

I’m so in there with the family though, I was playing with wee Alex all afternoon and had him sat on my lap eating cake and cleaning his fingers, he’s such a wee cutie. Clearly, I am the Japanese Knotweed of language assistants, invite me to stay for a couple of weeks and 5 months later I’ll still be there, eating cake with your family and being an aunty to your daughter. Brilliant.

Yesterday I went to Lille for a bit, it turns out despite everything being extortionate here, beauticians are cheap as chips, so I braved it and made small talk in French. Also, got a nursery rhymes book in English for Lily and I didn’t realise how mental they are. There’s one that’s like some old man wouldn’t say his prayers, so I took his left leg and pushed him down the stairs. Reasonable!

Today folk were over, so I found someone with my level of French (Elo’s 3 year old godaughter), who coloured in a nice picture of me wearing a kilt. She also gave me my quote of the day when she said “My godmother speaks English, like the Black Eyed Peas”

Tomorrow it’s wagons ho to Amsterdam till Sunday then on Tuesday I’m off to stay with Danny in St Etienne……hurrah!

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