Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Lift Test

There is an old saying that goes something like: friends will visit you in jail but best friends will help you hide the body. This particular little phrase crossed my mind as I’d finished my last essay of the calendar year before going home for the festive season.
I think I may have devised a more practical solution to this particular piece of advice regarding friendship. I’d say to employ my “lift test”. Take one of your friends and imagine you’ve both been stuck in a lift for an unforeseeable amount of time. Would you get bored with them? If you were frightened would they comfort you? If they were frightened would you know what to do in order to ease their suffering? So now I’m sat here now term is over after pre-Christmas dinner with the gals (that includes you too Ross) and I’m thinking could I apply this test to any of them? And do you know what? I have no question in my mind that they’d all pass with flying colours.
Everyone talks about how you find the friends that will your friends forever at university. Me being me was quite sceptical about this but I was proved wrong. I never thought I’d find such a great bunch of people when I was scrolling through the list of unis on UCAS and found the name of a not very well known institution. Each one of the people I’ve met is wonderful. They’re the kinds of friends who are there for you in the middle of the night when you’re stressed about an essay. They’re the kinds of friends who stroke your face and tell you need to moisturise your forehead then pour you another glass of wine. They’re the kinds of friends who will text you out of the blue and invite you to an art gallery. They’re the kinds of friends who are on the end of the phone when you need advice on what shoes to wear to a party. They’re there for you when you’re feeling homesick and are there to pick you up and cheer you up.

So guys, this is a big thank you to you. You’ve been wonderful and I’m really going to miss you over the holidays. You’ve made this year and a half at uni unbelievably amazing. I’m sat here with a tear in my eye at how lucky I am to have met such a beautiful group of people. It’s reassuring and comforting to be able to be myself around everyone and to be accepted for it. Merry Christmas to you all and I’ll see you in the New Year for an even better year and a half.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Dealings With The Mafia Landlady: Part Two

Two English girls, two Germans, two French people and an Irish guy sit down to dinner. No this isn’t the start to some lewd joke; it is in fact the start to a story about our dinner chez the Mafia Landlady aka Madame B.
We’ve been living in the Ice Palace for around 4/5 months now but even so when the call came from our beloved landlady we were rather shocked to receive an invite for dinner at her house along with paying her our rent. We willing replied that we would love to have dinner with her and her creepy son. What student would pass up a free meal? The information that she left out of the equation until the day before the event was that we’d also be dining with our neighbours who live on the floor above us. Filling us with slight trepidation following our slight loud escapades we said it would be lovely to meet them. This shocked Madame B. How could we not have met the people who live above us? This was the chance to meet them.
So Tash and I left our flat characteristically early in order to go and find a suitable gift to take. I don’t think we could have found a bigger box of chocolates on the shelves of Monoprix that they one we found. At least if the meal wasn’t very good then we’d have some lovely chocolates to fill ourselves up on at the end of the meal! Due to our earliness we had a lovely wander around the area – I think turning up to what could be one the most awkward evenings of our lives wasn’t top on our agendas. We finally decided it was time to walk up those stairs and face the soirée.
Greeted by Madame B and her weird son we were directed to sit down in her bedroom of all places then handed a glass of Champagne. The signals for a weird evening were all there. After some rather awkward conversation of what our parents do for a living the other guests for the evening turned up.  We were all introduced to each other with some stilted conversation and the random outbursts of Madame B’s son asking very strange questions indeed. This was all accompanied with a piece of bread covered in a mysterious paste. I could see Tash looking at me with caution out of the corner of my eye. The one thing I really didn’t want to have at this dinner would be seafood or salmon and the look of this spread had a distinct fishy smell. After one bite I knew it was the dreaded prawn mousse. I managed to scoff it down in between gulps of Champagne without too much trouble. Again I repeat my joy at a free meal, but hopefully this would be the last seafood of the night.
Unfortunately my hopes and dreams were dashed when the platter of prawns in their shells, salmon and boiled egg was brought out. Even worse Tash and I had been split up and had Creepy Son sat in between us. After some tentative looking around the table to see when it was appropriate to start deconstructing the meal, conversation started to flow about how my Irish neighbour was looking into Hepatitis C as part of his Masters. Such classic dinner party conversation instigated from my landlady there. Meanwhile the German vegetarian neighbour was sat quietly eating his lone avocado as he wasn’t eating any of the fish, I think this was a step up after being handed a packet of raisins during reception drinks. His luck didn’t continue though. As we all had scallops with a lovely bit of very plain pasta, he just had plain pasta.
Conversation obviously turned to the weather and if it was going to snow at all in Paris which prompted German female neighbour to talk about skiing giving Creepy Son an excuse to yet again top up my wine glass. Finally dessert was upon us, a delicious homemade chocolate orange cake from Madame B in addition the gigantic box of chocolates we had taken with us. After some ridiculing of the British students and our seemingly small time spent in university in comparison with the Masters students we made our excuses and all left together happy in the knowledge that we didn’t have to all try to speak strained French in an even more awkward situation.
Luckily I now know the people I have to go and complain to when they wake me up in the middle of the night when they start to hoover. It has also been quite strange how before this encounter at Madame B’s we had never seen them but now we are always bumping into them in the corridor. Apparently we shall all be having a soirée after Christmas so that we can get to know each other more, so I must say to look out for more detailed accounts of what goes on at the Ice Palace.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

If You Don’t Throw The Ball, It Won’t Hit The Coconut

Now, the title for this particular post came from a strange place indeed. I had finished writing one of my essays – incidentally one I had been especially stressed about – so decided to mark the end of this feat of endurance by watching something on the Wonder of the World, BBC iPlayer. The choice was difficult. I had already watched Graham Norton and Have I Got News For You so alas my fail safe cheer-up shows were not on the cards for this special moment. My decision, after much thought, was to watch World’s Greatest Food Markets. A lesser known programme, but I triumph from that bastion of entertainment, the BBC. If you haven’t seen this programme then you really need to sort yourself. The premise is basically that the show give this ‘geezer’ who is a fish-seller at Billingsgate market some money and he has to make a profit in different markets around the world. The first programme was in New York, where he tries to sell the Americans jellied eels but mostly ends up eating his profits. Despite my evident love for this television show it isn’t in fact the main subject of the post but it is important to reference the quote (yes I have been doing too many essays – I have referencing on the brain). What I really loved about the programme was his optimism. It’s the philosophy of just having a go and trying something that I really admired in him, as well as his use of the phrase “If You Don’t Throw The Ball, It Won’t Hit The Coconut”…
This got me thinking about something else I had watched. This time on the magnificent site that in Youtube. Not only am I obsessed with James Bond but I do have a rather strange addiction to Masterchef. One very bored evening brought me to watching clips of the American version of the show. The US is the set of nations in the world with the greatest sense of optimism in each and every one of them. This was shown in one contestant on series 3 of Masterchef USA. I watched the audition of Christine Ha with amazement. As she walked into the judging chamber she was accompanied by her husband who was guiding her way to the work surface in the middle of the room because she is blind. Yes, you read that correctly. She’s blind. Now Masterchef has never had a contestant who is blind before. It seems very unlikely that she could be any good at cooking if she couldn’t see what she was doing. If you thought that then you would be 100% wrong. She didn’t let her disability stop her from doing what she was really good at. In fact from the extensive research I did into the Masterchef archives available on Youtube she was the best contestant on the show by far. Her sashimi was amazing. The skill in sashimi is the cutting of the fish which she did perfectly despite not being able to see what she was doing. It really put the rest of the contestants to shame.
Watching all of this got me thinking. You really have to try something so that you know whether you can do it or not. I thought back to myself probably about 2 years ago now when I was sending off my UCAS application and made the decision to apply to come to university in Paris. At that point I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it would be fine in my sweet naivety. I hadn’t even visited my university when I thought to myself that actually Paris was the place I wanted to be. I just had to try living in a different country to know whether I could do it. Sometimes I still don’t think I can do it, whether it’s coping with deadlines or going to the supermarket and trying to work out what half the items on the shelves actually are. But I’m glad that I’m here and doing it. A sense of adventure as well as trial and error are what make you the person you become after the most formative years of your life – the first time you move away from home.
What I’m saying is just go for it, whether you are a fish seller in New York, a contestant on Masterchef or a 19 year-old trying to work out what to do with their life have a go and just try it. You never know. It might just work out for the better.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Desert Island Discs

It has been hard to pin down the inspiration for this post. Is it my love since a relatively young age of one of Radio Four’s greatest programmes? Or is it my love of musically themed lists due to an obsession with the book and film High Fidelity? Anyway whatever reason for the satisfaction I derive from whittling down my favourite songs/albums/films from a huge number to just five happens to be one of my most favoured methods of day-dreaming.
I feel like I day dream a lot. Particularly on the metro. You might be able to tell that most of my blog posts are either dreamt up on a train or on a plane, especially when I’m staring out of the window when we’re in either a tunnel or in the case of flying a humongous cloud. This particular idea sprung to mind as I had had a dream following an intensive session of trawling through the Radio Four archives trying to find Ian Fleming’s Interview on Desert Island Discs – an endeavour which I succeeded in completing you shall be glad to know. I wondered what songs I would choose if I ever was called up by Kirsty Young to come and be on the show to tell her all about my life story. I’m sure it won’t be long until I get the call…..
So in the meantime I may as well let the internet know what songs I would pick if I were ever to go on the show. They are as follows:
1)      We Love The North – The Lancashire Hotpots
Now this is not a well-known number but a truly glorious one. I love a bit of novelty pop and this is top of the genre. Who can’t love a band with songs like Chippy Tea and The Perfect Pint? I first discovered this northern group at the wondrous festival Kendal Calling a few years back but they never fail to cheer me up on homesick days. When the Parisian metro is getting you down how can you not want to listen to a song about Poundland or Kebabs?
2)      In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning – Jamie Cullum
I first truly fell in love with this song when I had to wake up really early to go and catch a flight to go back to dear old Blighty. There is something really different about those early hours in the morning and it depends on whether you have stayed up for them or have to wake up for them. Leaving a club at 4am is quite far removed from sitting on the RER at 6am on your way to the airport! But for either moment I’ve found that this song just makes it that bit more serene and peaceful
3)      Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
When you’re getting bogged down in essays or work or French bureaucracy (all of which have been a right pain for me at some point or another) there is nothing like a proper pick you up song. That’s what this song is for me. I had a week in the summer (commonly known in the family as Misery Week) just before I moved into my current flat. I had no internet. I was missing my family terribly. It wasn’t a pretty sight. But after a phone call home, the arrival of my partner in crime and this song on repeat for at least an hour a day mixed with a chai latte sorted me out.
4)      Skyfall – Adele
Now those who know me well will know that I have a slight obsession with James Bond. Therefore this list wouldn’t be complete without at least one theme song from the world’s greatest film franchise now would it? I’d argue that Bond is the greatest for escapism but I might just be a biased fan. Skyfall isn’t just a Bond theme song though you can actually listen to it as a normal song well I can anyway. It just so happens to feature on my playlist for the shower for those moments when I think I can actually sing so end up belting out the words (apologies to my flatmates for that annoying quirk or mine).
5)      Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secured –Arctic Monkeys
Now this wouldn’t be a list of songs chosen by someone born in the mid-90s if there wasn’t a song from Arctic Monkeys on there now would it? No, it wouldn’t. That is what you were thinking too, right? Good. There is something just really funny about this particular song. I tried to find a quiz on Buzzfeed (to no avail sadly) to find out what my favourite AM song actually was but decided on this one as I really connect with it at this moment in my life. It tackles those tricky conversations with taxi drivers and the heightened emotions everyone feels at the end of a good night out which could either make it unforgettable or ruin it for everyone. It is perhaps a little cheerier than some of my other choices but nevertheless shows the same kind of wonderful song writing – a skill which I will always be jealous of.
The next task for me was even more difficult. Choosing a luxury and a book. Luckily I don’t have to worry about not having read the complete works of Shakespeare before this point as I will have plenty of time to do that on the island. I think I would choose Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert as my book (I know not a James Bond! But I do know them off by heart…) because without sounding really cheesy it did change my life. I don’t have a very long attention span but this book left me captivated and reminded me that doing what you want for yourself and no one else is sometimes the only way you can be truly happy. My luxury would probably have to be either my electric heater that has changed my life around since living in the Ice Palace or if I have no electricity I might steal the wood-burning stove from home (sorry Mum!) so that I can keep nice and warm in the cold evenings on my island. I am known for my love of all things snuggy and ridiculously hot.  

Thank goodness I have sorted all of that as now I can be superbly ready for when I get the call from the BBC. Hopefully I can stop day-dreaming about interviews I might never have in the near future and get out and do some more things in Paris but so far essays and work have been my focus, well when I say focus I mean devoting all my time too them and not at all thinking up blog ideas in my nutritious snack breaks. Right now where are those biscuits…….

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dealings with the Mafia Landlady

A quick note before I deal with the main topic of this particular blog post, a post which I somehow already feel might be a rather lengthy one so go and make a cup of tea before you sit down to reading this one. (If you don’t drink tea you need to sit down and have a stern word with yourself). My reasons for not having blogged recently are as follows:
1.       I haven’t done anything of particular note. Unless you want to hear about the passé simple which by all means I can talk about but somehow I think that isn’t a favourite subject for most people, not even French students.
2.       I’ve been mostly trying to do some work. Strange I know. Most university students are trying to drink their body weight in alcohol. (Some of this I have done – Freshers week was a true triumph but I must confess that some of my most entertaining behaviour has been from very sober nights out)
Right. Now that we’ve dealt with that let’s get down to business.
So I’m in a new flat! No longer am I in my small garret at the top of seven flights of stairs. I have finally reached a point of relative luxury in my renting life as I’m now on the GROUND FLOOR! It’s amazing no longer do I have to lug my bottles of wine up those painful, winding stairs. Now I have no limit to how much I can buy!! Such joyous news!
But the new flat has a rather unfortunate nickname – The Ice Palace. It has yet to show us its true colours but maybe as the winter draws nearer I may yet find that I am shivering as I type. I now happen to live in what some people delightfully have named “the corridor” as you have to walk through my room from my darling flatmate’s to get to the kitchen and the bathroom. This has mostly highlighted to her my interesting inability to get up in the morning and my love to sitting cross legged curled up in my duvet for several minutes just to make sure that I’m not still asleep and dreaming.
Alas, it is not us in this flat of ours! We have another flatmate. How exciting? Living with someone we don’t know. Is this what Halls were like for people who go to normal universities? We have been rather fortunate that he isn’t a freaky weirdo and is in fact British (not a crazy Frenchman, thank goodness) but I do think he has rather judged me for watching Jeremy Kyle when cooking my lunch.
We have all definitely bonded over the peculiarities of our landlady. She is, how can I put this, er, interesting. Firstly, for you dear readers to get a handle on what this woman is like I should probably mention that she decorates all of the apartments she owns with her own “works of art”, a term I am using loosely in this context, they all mostly depict snowy, mountainous scenes and are rather large as well as being on the whole not the best. She never answers an email with an email. She loves calling you up at the most annoying times possible. It’s like she has a sixth sense for when I’m really busy or when I’m holding too many things to be able to pick up the phone. But it isn’t just the wonderful Madame B that we have to deal with. It’s her son as well. He has some of the bluest eyes I have ever seen and hair so blonde and coiffured that it just doesn’t seem real. He is about 17 and seems to be his mother’s little protégé when it comes to her empire of apartments.
Moving on to the “mafia” nature of her conduct, she likes to be paid in cash. Or cheque. But never bank transfer. I always feel rather dodgy when handing over big wedges of cash (as Parisian rents are notoriously high) and to heighten this feeling I think in future I might start putting the money in brown envelopes and placing them in a designated spot for her to pick up at a later date, but that might just be my fantasy to be in a John Le Carre or Ian Fleming novel playing out in my head.
Even so she does seem to like us and we have only had two complaints about noise which I consider rather poor on our front. Seems like we haven't been having enough rowdy parties. Maybe that will all change in the coming weeks. Who knows? Anything is possible.

INCIDENTAL INFORMATION: Since beginning this post some weeks ago I have since bought myself an oscillating heater from Darty for the princely sum of 15€. It has changed my life considerably. I now do not have to worry about getting frostbite in the coming months and can sit at my desk without being covered in as many blankets as I can fit on my person. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

There and Back Again: An Unexpected Italian Journey

No, this isn’t some kind of weird mash-up between The Italian Job and the Hobbit. It is in fact a rather detailed account of my trip to Venice using the overnight train from Gare de Lyon with my forever faithful travelling companion, my darling sister – Pip. Now this sounds like a very good idea in theory, I will grant us that. We got extra time in Venice by sleeping on the train so we saved money on our “hostel” – definite bonus. The piece of the puzzle that we hadn’t banked on was other people. These other people were more specifically tourists. That group of people who seem to always be in the way when you don’t want them to be and who always scupper your plans for a nice relaxing break. Now obviously someone reading will be saying to themselves (either out loud or internally it depends on how vexed they are) “But Kate, surely you count as a tourist?!” Dear reader, you are sorely mistaken. Of course I’m not a tourist, I’m a Parisian (I can technically say this now after living here exactly a year!!!) We barge past as many tourists as we can; it’s like the city’s sport.
Anyway back to the story. So we were meant to be in a six bed sleeper compartment at the very end of the train.  We ended up being in a different compartment because being the kind citizens of the world that we are we swapped with someone in another compartment so that he could be with his family. I did have one thought that this could all go a bit Agatha Christie and one of us could get murdered in our sleep instead of this guy who was a secret Mafia boss – or at least he was in my head…..
Our new compartment consisted of us two, a Brazilian couple and an Italian couple. There was me thinking that I was going to be able to dazzle my fellow Parisians with my wonderful French. Sadly this pleasure was only for the train worker who took our passports for when we crossed over in Switzerland. The compartment itself was comfortable enough. There we two top bunks that were permanently there and the back rests for the seats folded down to make the bottom and middle bunks. Whoever got the bottom bunks were in for an interesting night as they also came with the headrests of the seats. One of these lucky people was me. It wasn’t the worst night’s sleep I have had but it certainly wasn’t the best. But I must concede that the benefit of being on the bottom was that I could look out of the window each time we stopped and have a good nosy at the different train stations we stopped at. My favourites were Lausanne in Switzerland and Milan in Italy, the worst being Venezia Saint Lucia our final destination. Maybe this last choice is out of anger from my latter experiences there but we will return there later, I must keep chronological!
Arriving in Venice our first thoughts were that is was beautiful and as people had told us before, just like the pictures. Indeed my pictures must look much like those that were taken by every other tourist there, save for a few very interesting selfies. The next step after actually arriving there was to find the hostel we had booked. The website said that it was in the centre of town and that if we got lost then we were to go to the only McDonalds in Venice and to ring them and someone would come and fetch us. We decided that it was probably best to go to Maccy Ds and to wait as we’d already got surprisingly lost in the 20 minutes that we had been there thanks to the myriad of dark little alleyways that are the main highways of Venice. So we were met around 10 minutes after I had called the hostel by an Italian woman and her 5 year-old son who was wearing matching green sandals and green glasses. No names were exchanged but she asked if we were the girls for the Rialto Star hostel. We said we were and that was that. She took us down “roads” that we would never have found by ourselves until we got to the building which contained our “apartment”, a room with two single beds with a door onto a kitchen and a bathroom down the corridor. Apparently there were two other people there but we never saw them!
We were then left to our own devices. So after tracking down vast quantities of pizza, pasta, spritz and a slack handful of museums whilst dodging all of the tourists with a sprinkling of ice cream for good measure we were Paris bound again. This time we thought that we were going to have a compartment to ourselves but alas we were joined 3 or 4 hours into our journey by an Italian girl who had the most luggage I have ever seen one person carrying!! This was fine until we were joined by three Korean lads at Milan who also had three enormous suitcases and rucksacks. We both managed to avoid the game of Tetris that was arranging our fellow travellers’ luggage by pretending to be asleep. A wise tactic I think you may agree!   

It was overall an enjoyable trip. Well any trip involving an overload of carbs and frozen dairy goods can’t be all that bad can it? But it’s good to be back in Paris where I can actually understand what people are saying and having a moody stare is obligatory. What I’m most looking forward to now after a short spell back at home is definitely getting back to uni (well Freshers Week) and fingers crossed finding a new job!

Monday, 11 August 2014

August in Paris

It is a truth universally known that Paris in constantly full of tourists. But this is so much more the case in August when all of the Parisians very sensibly decamp to their summer homes in the South. I have been reliably informed that this month is the best time to pick up a man who works in the city because all their wives have taken themselves down to the coast. Somehow my mind is more set on moving flats than become some sleazy guy’s mistress!
It’s strange though. The mood of the city has completely changed. Instead of being buffeted by clouds of endless cigarette smoke it is American tourists getting really excited at “authentic French food” in Monoprix. It makes going round and doing all the super touristy things that I secretly quite enjoy doing a lot easier as I don’t feel like I’m being judged by all of the super cool Parisians especially when we end up in the zoo despite our intention of going to the Natural History Museum in Jardin des Plantes….
Admittedly despite my usual hatred of tourists (they’re slow at walking and get in my way when I have too many bags of shopping) I’m quite liking them at the moment. Mostly due to the fact that all the usual places I go to are an awful lot quieter – take the supermarket for example there was hardly a soul around so I felt less judged taking my basket of pretty much completely Monoprix own-brand goods to the till.

So despite my initial apprehension when I arrived back here on Thursday night, I’m back enjoying myself again. Looking for the positives in everything. Even moving all of my things down my seven flights of stairs – free exercise right?!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Mon Retour

I’M BACK! After a whole month of being back on my native shores I am finally back in the land of frogs’ legs, cheese eating surrender monkeys and croissants. Naturally I have been welcomed back by no internet in my flat. How very kind and thoughtful of them! So I have reinstalled myself in Starbucks in much the same fashion as I did when I first moved out here except with larger coffees and more pastries.
So I got back last night after having had to sit next to the most annoying romantic break couple in the history of the universe. Luckily I bought myself some AMAZING headphones which blocked out their canoodaling (thank goodness for the wonders of TKMaxx and not having to pay full price) and my books of choice was Thank You Jeeves so at no point did I feel like I was plummeting into the depths of despair.
Instead of getting the RER back into town I decided on the bus as it has a much better aroma than the train plus you get to look out at much more interesting scenery. Indeed one scenic benefit of getting the bus as opposed to the train is that the graffiti is much better. The stuff you see from the train is very average I comparison to the surprisingly good Simpsons characters I saw last night as the bus wound through the Parisian suburbs. This was all helped along by a good soundtrack of superb Diana Ross classics such as Upside Down – in truth I must have looked truly bizarre bopping around in a disco fashion.

Backtracking a little bit here but I really do have to tell you about the taxi driver I had to the airport from lunch. Now I don’t have a good track record when talking to taxi drivers, in fact recently one tried to tell me that I didn’t sound like I came from the Wirral even though I’ve lived there all of my life….. But this one was alright after the usual chat inquiring as to where I was travelling etc and him asking me all sorts of questions about living in France namely what the weather was like and if I’m fluent in French. We also touched on the subject of how awful we both are at German. When we arrived at the wondrous John Lennon Airport (some people don’t believe me when I say that Liverpool named its airport after a Beatle but trust me it’s true) he commented on how delightful it was to talk to me – I may not be cursed with annoying taxi drivers after all!

Friday, 4 July 2014

All Change On The 7th Floor

So today was my last day working. I’m feeling more emotional about leaving the job than I thought I would be. I did have to hold back the tears as I finally left by the backdoor – but even on my final day working I was treated like a servant, bet this kind of behaviour doesn’t happen on Downton….
The change started earlier this week when I went to sign for my new flat. Yes, soon I will be living with other human beings who aren’t related to me by blood so won’t just put up with my one word grumblings in the morning- scary I know. It feels quite odd to leave my little attic up here in the skies. I suppose most people feel melancholic when they move out of the first place they had on their own. I’ve had some good memories and some bad ones here (the bad ones mostly being when the WiFi doesn’t work and I have to decamp to Starbucks).
I feel less bad about leaving my weird angular abode due to the new neighbour situation. Since about March there has been another English girl living down the corridor, which has been… how can I put this…erm…interesting?! She likes to run down the corridors and ring my shrill doorbell at odd hours to get some toilet roll for the communal toilet (which I’m still rather smug that I don’t have to use). This sets us up quite nicely for next part of this sorry tale.
After having bumped into said neighbour earlier in the day who told me that she was leaving the next day I assumed that the person ringing my doorbell at 11h15 in the evening might be the one neighbour I actually know. So I pulled on a hoody over my really rather attractive trackie bottoms and what I can only describe as an interesting hairstyle, mostly piled on the top of my heads in a wet and wavy mess. Turns out it wasn’t said neighbour. How embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as it was for the -what I can only describe as overgrown child - who had actually rung my doorbell and it turns out everyone else’s doorbells. The answer to the question “Am I disturbing you?” when posed to me after 10pm is usually “But of course you are, I’m watching MasterChef you crazy fool”. This wasn’t what I replied with but I feel I portrayed it with the expression on my face. I seem to have improved my steely glare since moving to Paris and it has never been more useful than this particular moment. So this young boy proceeds to ask me about who I have as a WiFi provider even though I had already said that I was asleep when he rang the bell. I must admit that whatever I did say to him must have seemed like the angry crazed ramblings of a mad woman because my French comes out as a weird mix of words I’ve only just managed to string together in my head.
Unfortunately there are still far too many mosquitoes here though – for more information about my recent problems with insect bites please see my twitter feed where I think I have spoken about this subject perhaps a little too much. I was trying to beef up my arm muscles a little bit but the handily placed swellings have made me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger on a bad day. (Sorry for that horrific image).
Returning to my last day of working, it started with me standing at the school gates for the very last time (or at least until my next nannying job). Half the children pouring out of the doors were crying because they didn’t want to leave school, well either that or the were coming down off the sugar high which had been induced by the extraordinary amount of sweets small kids think they can eat on the last day of school.
What happened in-between me arriving at their flat and leaving was of little consequence so I will only tell you dear readers of my departure. Both of the kids came to see me out, half the time they can’t be bothered so it was rather sweet that they actually wanted to say goodbye. L gave me the biggest hug and just looked me in the eye and said “It’s been a good year”. Now I’m not one to get overly emotional at things (one of the only films I’ve cried at was Gladiator) but I did have to hold back the salty droplets forming in my eyes. J kept saying “Goodbye” along with “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Paques” and “Happy Birthday”, which they both knew to be 1st August (I have trained them well, haven’t I?) They even tried to walk up the stairs with me but stopped as soon as I threatened to pack one of them in my suitcase and take them back to the UK with me.
I never thought that I’d be particularly good at looking after kids but it seems to have worked out quite well at least no one hurt themselves while under my supervision and J now knows how to say “anticonstitutionally” which is a word in French but the translation doesn’t really scan that well.

Maybe I will get another English teaching job or maybe I’ll find something different but despite the frustration this one has given me, it has also given me some hilarious anecdotes indeed far too many to put on this blog. I will home at this time in 5 days and I’m not back in Paris until mid-August to go and move into the new apartment. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there will probably be a bit of radio silence from now until then. So it’s over and out from me until then. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Mornings in Paris

No not a post channelling the creative atrocity that was Woody Allen’s film “Midnight In Paris” but a charming reflection on my past year that I had sat in a café waiting for an appointment at the British Embassy Consular Services building.   
I thought it was pretty apt today to upload this post as it is the day after the Wirral Grammar Leavers Ball and therefore (almost) exactly a year since my mum woke me up with the words “A chic French woman has left a voicemail for you!!” I waited nervously all day for her to ring me back and was ready at any moment to run away from getting my make-up/hair done to go and be amazingly charming and try to sound responsible. The call back didn’t happen for a few days but I did get the job which I’m just a week away from finishing.
I’ve been trying to get lots of things done in my last few weeks before I return to the UK in 11 days’ time. For starters, we had to sort a flat for August to move into with my two sidekicks in general Parisian filled frivolities. I also had to get an extension on my passport so that I could return to the cloudy shores of my homeland once again. Both of these things required getting up relatively early. As many people might be aware this is not something I am particularly good at. I tend to need a good cup of coffee and some kind of baked goods inside me before I can make any kind of intelligent conversation. So this is what I vowed to do.
First of all on Tuesday I had to go and get some groceries as my fridge had become seriously lacking in the food department. Things were getting serious – I had almost run out of both green beans and chocolate (two things I have started to rely on as food staples but not necessarily in the same dish). I made my way to Franprix which I knew opened at 8am but when I got there they had nothing on the shelves. “Monoprix would never allow this kind of shoddy business practice” I said to myself so I walked there post-haste. The ever wonderful and omnipotent Monoprix however was not open. But never fear there were many cafes nearby for me to purchase piping hot espresso and croissant in true Parisian style. So as I sat there watching the world go by and laughing at the silly Americans sat next to me I had a little think. Usually I don’t dabble in such dangerous matters but I was having a happy-go-lucky day so carried on in my pensive mood.
This year has been pretty good really. I’ve passed all of the modules of my first year of university. I’ve managed to live on my own without burning down the building or having to go to A&E. SOPPY ALERT: I’ve made some really awesome friends. Not the fake kind, but the kind of friends who will pass embarrassing photos of you round the lecture theatre but also the kinds of friends who offer to bring stuff round when your ill and ring you up out of the blue to organise a night out on the tiles.
The rest of my day was fairly uneventful but it did include a bit of sunbathing and reading James Bond so it was pretty epic really.

I also managed to combine the eating of baked goods with having to go to extend my passport. A task that I was slightly daunted by but it needed doing so it was going to be done. The fact that I was half an hour early for my appointment didn’t deter me, but the fact that the building didn’t open for another half an hour was a slight issue so I had a cheeky little wander. I haven’t really explored the 8th arrondissement all that much which is a shame because it is gorgeous! I managed to scrap together all of the cents I had in my bag to go and grab a pain au chocolat and sit watching all of the goings on in the beautiful designer shops and the up-market hotels. Extending my passport was simple enough – I finally feel like a proper traveller now because I have a funky stamp in my passport.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Au Pair's Guide to Babysitting

Before coming to Paris to take up a job as resident professional babysitter I had only ever done it once previously. I wouldn’t even begin to say that I think I have the art of looking after children down to a fine art after doing it for 9 months but I’m certainly starting to wise up to all the intricacies of getting two dangerously devious girls to do what I say. Here are my words of wisdom:-
1.       Make sure they know the boundaries. For example my girls know that I’ll let them stay up a little bit later if they don’t disturb me when I’m totally immersed in Game Of Thrones because if not they will incur my wrath. Something that is never pretty on a Saturday night when I could be out having fun.
2.       Don’t snitch on each other. I’ll tell your mum that you went to bed without a fuss and at the designated hour if you don’t let on that I’ve eaten most of the crisps. And drunk all the tea. And eaten most of the Percy Pigs.
3.       If I’ve let you watch Desperate Housewives past your bedtime (which coincidentally is really badly dubbed but it such a way that it’s even funnier) then you have to slowly glide from the living room into your own bedroom with the stealth of a leopard when your parents come through the front door – something I never perfected as a child.
4.       My solution for you being in a strop/scared of thunderstorms/not doing what I say is to tickle you. A fail safe negotiating tactic – why haven’t they tried this in the Middle East?
5.       Try hard to help with homework. Even if it’s explaining the German case system which fogs my brain in English never mind when I’m explaining it in French.  #linguistproblems
6.       Wifi passwords and laptop chargers are essential. But an emergency book is always good. Even if it’s just to pick up when the parents walk through the door so it doesn’t look like you’ve been watching a whole series of Real Housewives Of Atlanta back to back but actually reading Proust. (Fail safe technique – no one finishes Proust so you can keep it up for ages)

It is an occupation that is not without its certain struggles – I mean who can reason with 8 year olds? But it can be quite rewarding. My favourite moment babysitting was hearing some guy in the street screaming “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” to his friend. The Lord of The Rings nerd within me was quite gleeful that night I can tell you.  

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Half Birthday

Now, most people who know me know that I like a good party. Any excuse for a party and I’m there. Most reasons for a party I find acceptable. But a party for your 8 ½ birthday? Even I find that a little bit extravagant. But nevertheless I found myself in a situation where I had to attend a birthday party for an eight and a half year old this weekend. I wasn’t invited to J’s party as a guest per se, more as someone to dump 13 screaming eight year olds on and someone to corral them into playing games.
The programme of events was meant to go something like –
1.       Welcome screaming children
2.       Take screaming children to the park to play games
3.       Come back and do their make-up/costumes
4.       Do arts and crafts
5.       Eat some food
6.       Quietly recover in a corner as they danced to Disney songs
7.       Cake and presents
What it actually turned out to be was a lot more harrowing. As I have already tweeted, there should be white wine on hand after every small child’s party. (At this point I’d like to make a public apology to my dear Mum for putting her through this pain).
Admittedly it started by going to plan, but when my boss decided that the roundabout was a good place for L and me to set up base it started spiralling slowly downhill. The games we had on offer were pétanque, skittles, hoopla and something where you had to catapult balls at a frog – maybe they don’t like their international stereotype all that much…. This was all fine until the kids started running up the statue in the middle of said roundabout. I did my best angry shouting but realised that I was mostly shouting in English and that half of them couldn’t understand me. I then employed my mean Parisian stare which seemed to work a treat. Six of the children then proceeded to explain how to play the game moules-frites to me, which is an awful lot like stuck-in-the-mud but a little more gastronomic.
When we went back to the flat I was put on make-up duty. I was handed my tools of hideous eyeshadow and glitter with which I had to turn each child into something slightly different but still keeping a slightly princessy theme to the overall look. I emerged from the bathroom what seemed like an eternity later covered head-to-toe in glitter and a broken woman (no hyperbole there).
Next in store for us was food, thank goodness. Pizza and little balls of potato, which I swear L and me ate more of than any of children combined – applying blue eyeshadow is hard work and requires a lot of sustenance. Whilst they were eating someone thought it was a good idea to play a game of “Guess The Disney Song”, which I could have been quite good at if they weren’t all in French…..This seemed to go on for eons until we finally arrived at a change in the programme. We were to have a dance off instead of arts and crafts, which was lucky for me as I think I may have turned a little Lady Macbeth with a cry of “Is this a dagger I see before me?” (Thank you to Pip for sending in this handy little quotation). One child rather enjoyed dancing to a song from the well-known musical Cats but all I could hear was T.S.Eliot rolling in his grave.
Eventually we got to cake and presents time, which I must admit was rather good as L and I were expressly told that the kids couldn’t have more than two different flavours of ice cream but that these restrictions were not imposed on us. In true teenage fashion, we rather went to town on the frozen delicacy. J then had a blindfold tied around her eyes so that she had to guess which friend was giving her the present by feeling their face. This perplexed me ever so slightly. I’m not sure whether it is some weird French tradition as no one else seemed to find it bizarre but I don’t really want to go to another child’s party to find out this nugget of information about French culture.

In the end I was so glad to get back to my flat. I poured myself a large glass of vino blanco and thus sat in silence to stop the ringing in my ears. Overall it was an interesting Saturday night which I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed or not but I was glad of some quiet yoga and the company of people my own age the next day. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Watering Holes

Watering Holes
One dark night in February my dear self and another member of the ULIP Student population were meant to be working on our Dragons’ Den project but we got a little distracted by several bottles of wine and the Time Out website with its vast list of bars, clubs and other vendors of inebriating spirits. I cannot take full credit for finding all of the establishments I am about to describe but I most definitely have drunk in all of them so I think that’s just as good. Isn’t it?
Dirty Dick
This unusually named bar on rue Frochot looks rather bizarre with its wooden exterior amongst all of the sex shops in everyone’s favourite trendy area SoPi. When we made our first trip the delightful bouncer (said with no sarcasm at all) asked us for our ID because he didn’t believe we were as young as we said we were – a new experience for me as I recently got asked if I was a friend of the 13 year old I look after not the person who was in charge of her safety. But I digress. With their Tiki themed interior including puffer fish for lampshades and fishbowls which arrived in conch shells containing floating halves of passion fruit on fire, I can’t deny the strangeness but brilliance of it. It isn’t massively cheap but they do a rather interesting coconut concoction for 6€ for lovers of all things a little bit Malibu. Overall a triumph of a find.
Le Cristal  
A personal favourite of mine not only because it is a 2 minute walk from my flat but because I’ve never had a bad night there. Found at 163 Avenue de Suffren it looks rather unsuspecting during the day but is usually rammed most nights of the week. Despite it often very hard to sit down in the cramped conditions especially when it’s raining and all of the people from the smoking area cram themselves in to. With Kronenbourg sold in plastic cups, it isn’t the classiest of places but it has a certain charm. The bar staff ring a bell each time the get a tip which causes more and more people to cheer the more time passes and the more alcohol gets consumed. The atmosphere is very friendly and if you want to go and talk to French people in a non-forced environment like a speed-dating type thing then I’d recommend it. I must finally add a disclaimer though if anyone does decide to go. The loos are horrific but it definitely has character.
Now before I write about here I must admit that I’ve only ever had an actual drink here once because each other time we’ve been there has been nowhere to sit. A sure sign of a quality establishment I think you will agree. The one time I did manage to grab a pew there I had a cocktail called an Aretha (insert pun about giving them RESPECT etc), so it can’t be bad at all in my book. Hidden away at the end of Rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts it is very handy for a cheeky kebab from Gyros on the way home. Need I sell this place to you anymore?

Whether these three haunts of mine are unknown to you or your regular drinking dens – I hope they give you as much pleasure as they have given me but hopefully it is in the form of a stiff drink after a hard day picking up children/despairing about French bureaucracy/celebrating the arrival of your student loan in your bank account. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The School Concert

So this au pairing lark has brought out some maternal instincts in me that some people (including me I may add) never knew I had. Yesterday I did the usual picking up J from school who had the key for the back door in her bag so we could let ourselves in…or did she?
We tried that key. Several times. Did it work? I think not. So as we were texting her mum to let her know we couldn’t get in we heard the front door bell ring. J initially thought they were burglars (interesting breaking and entering technique ringing the doorbell, don’t think she’ll be a criminal mastermind..) but I deduced that it was her sister. We walked down and around to said front door only to find her sister. I then get a call from their mother who asks me to put J on the phone. Out of the 8 year old, 13 year old and the 18 year old any sane person would choose the 8 year old wouldn’t they?  By the time she gets home its half an hour into the two and a half hours I meant to be working but that’s fine. I mean I love playing tic-tac-toe in the corridor!
Then L and her mum have to pop out to go and get something so I am tasked with going with J to pick her friend up form school so they can have a play date while this kid’s mum is chatting to Tony Blair….no kidding. This child has no clue who I am bless her but I take them back to the flat and sort the snack out for them. So as I’m chopping orange segments which they then precede to eat and make orange teeth out of (some jokes never get old!) they start watching the television on the lowest volume possible (because that makes it so much better!)
They went off to play and I just sat and drank tea until the others came back. Life is truly difficult sometimes. When they arrived I went back up to my flat to have my dinner before going back down to go to L’s school concert with them. This part of the evening is very boring so I won’t recount it unless you enjoy reading about boiling pasta?
I go downstairs at the agreed time only to find that none of them were ready or had eaten any food. So I’m sat there while they are all arguing about what to have on their bagels etc and before long we’re on our way after J has been told off for wearing an inappropriate coat. In the car on the way to the concert we had very random conversation; mostly about the Van Gogh exhibition I had been to see which obviously prompted chat about him cutting his ear off. An interesting concept to get your head around when you are eight. So we get there and take our seats in the school’s theatre while L goes to set up. J is already saying how bored she is but also boasting to her mother that she understood almost everything in the Little Red Riding Hood performance she watched at school (I must have helped a little bit with that!)
L was in the second performance out of 10 so by the time that she had played I think we were all ready to go but we had to sit through an hour more which wasn’t so bad as they were all quite good. I did feel like a proud mum clapping L when she had finished. I will definitely have to book her in to play the harp at my wedding…
Saying all of that one of the other performances did stick in my mind. There was a very cute little lad who played the accordion and reminded me a lot of my good friend James (he had a lovely tweed jacket on you would have been proud mate!) Stereotypical French instrument but he was very good so I didn’t mind too much.
At the end of the night the girls’ parents were chatting away to everyone as J and I were sat playing on Flappy Bird. Turns out I’m not very good at it.
Their parents agreed to give one of L’s mates a lift home which means that we have to squeeze 6 of us and a cello into Volkswagen Golf. A sitcom waiting to happen. But with J sat on my knee and a cello on top of her we were going nowhere which did present a certain difficulty when we had to get out of the car when we got back to ours!

I never thought this job would be as fun as it is and there is something quite funny about sharing fruit sherbets in a school concert with a very chic French woman or laughing about L and her mate sharing a job as a dog walker. It will be weird not seeing them when I’m home for Easter but it will be good to see family and friends and not having to deal with the chaos that does on here!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Cultural Analysis At The School Gate

First of all I would like to start with an apology for not having written an awful this month but it has all been quite mundane really. Shouldn’t really say that should I? Well in fact I was kidnapped by aliens who wanted to test my brain for signs of logical thought processes but they didn’t find any so brought me back to my humble abode. I will allow you beloved reader to work out which of those is correct.
When I was standing at the school gate today a sudden flash of inspiration hit me. Not literally that would hurt, but in the metaphorical sense it was excellent. It made up for the fact that I had gone to wait for J even though her mother had decided I am now working on Thursday instead.
I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the French as a population recently and most of these thoughts have been linked to how weird I think they are. This firstly came to the forefront of my mind when Pip said how bizarre it was that all of the public transport was free for the weekend that she came to stay with me. If this happened in the UK it probably wouldn’t have lasted the 4 days that it did here. This view was also echoed by the crowds of passengers at Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2 who asked me for my knowledge as a local as to why they didn’t have to pay the usual 10€ it takes to get back into town from the airport. I must admit I felt quite powerful with all the local knowledge I had at this point, a definite move towards being more native but I think I showed too much enthusiasm to be truly Parisian. As it goes the public transport was shut so that people were encouraged to us it to reduce our pollution levels, which I have now started using as an excuse for everything from essays not being started to being late for uni…..  
The second weird element of French culture I would like to bring to your attention is the fact that this morning  got at least 7 dirty looks for wearing light coloured jeans in drizzle that I could see and many more that I could feel looking at me. Even the homeless man I walk past every day on my way into university didn’t shout what I assume to be “Bonjour” but I am never quite sure. But thinking about it maybe they didn’t approve of my leopard print umbrella. As a typical Brit, I obviously think that as soon as there is some sun it is acceptable to wear a colour other than black. Obviously the Parisians think differently.
As all of these thoughts were going through my head I realised that I should probably pay attention to see whether J had come out of the door yet. She hadn’t. So I continued to think and this led me to ponder about French mums. In my mind’s eye I always see them as being effortlessly chic and unbelievably well turned out. But in reality some of them look far from the stereotype which is no bad thing. It makes me feel a lot more relaxed with what I wear despite the weird looks I get sometimes. But I don’t feel as conscious about it as when I first moved here. At least they don’t look at me like I’m a tourist anymore. That is a look of true contempt.
So all in all despite France being a truly weird country and more eccentric than they lead us to believe, it is a true delight to live here. Even though some guy in a bar’s idea of chatting me up is to make me name as many French cheeses as I can it does cheer you up when missing home etc.

Hopefully I will be having more exciting adventures soon after exams and Easter. There should be lots of hijinks that will be got up to in the not so distant future and therefore more things to write about on here because as I always say, “if it feels bad now it will be a good anecdote in the future”.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Paris in the Springtime

So just to get a few excuses in first before I start to say why I haven’t written anything that recently on here (and it isn’t because I have been doing anything interesting I have honest keep reading and you’ll find out!). Well I have had many a visitor these past few weeks! Who knew I was so popular?! Certainly not me that’s for sure.
Firstly I spent a lovely weekend with my cousin and her friends while they did the half-marathon and I watched with my aunt and uncle. It is always so good to see other people getting so much enjoyment out of exercise which I can’t say I always share. It was lovely going down to Chateau de Vincennes where the start and finish points were, never a bad thing to discover a different corner of the city especially when it’s one as beautiful as the end of Line 1!
Last week it started to get unbelievably sunny much to my delight as the arrival of my second guest was imminent. With a cheeky trip to the favourite Cristals under our belts we headed to the market to buy an array of produce for a picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg. So blanket in bag and cans of Orangina in hand we set off for the kind of lunch I’d imagined I would be having all the time when I first contemplated living here. It certainly felt like I was going More Native Than The Natives – I mean can you get more French than a baguette, goat’s cheese, olives, petit fours and Orangina? All of the Parisians were just eating MacDonalds, the heathens.

After we strolled along the Seine, had a photo outside Notre Dame and sat on Ile-de-la-Cite watching the world go by in the sunshine. And now I’m nearly at the end of onslaught of visitors with only Pip left to come. But with all this sunny weather I just know nothing can go wrong and who knows I may even have a slight tan by the time I come back for Easter!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day

Now this isn’t some kind of a soppy post about how cute my day has been. But then again it isn’t one complaining about being single in one of the most traditionally romantic cities. I probably bought into all of the soppy romantic Valentine’s propaganda at some point in time, been conditioned into thinking that being alone on Valentine’s Day was some kind atrocity that no one could live through happily. This just isn’t true. I’m not going to have all of the card companies and chocolate and perfume companies try to tell me how to feel about my life. I’m perfectly content. Why should I be any different today than on any other day?
It really shocked me when I was at work how miserable L was that she was single for Valentine’s. Why should it matter? Surely it is better to not care about the consumerist spiel that gets dragged out every February. Why should people want to visit Paris too of all places? Because they have been told that it is a city of love. But is it? I see hundreds of homeless people on the streets who don’t get given a second glance. Is that love?
If you want to show your undying love for someone, why take them to a place that is so clichéd. Do they really not mean anything to you for you to take them to somewhere so unimaginative? Why not take them somewhere they might actually enjoy or somewhere they’ve always wanted to go? Why not take them anytime of the year? Do you have to be prompted into doing something romantic because the card shops have started putting up their posters? Is the 14th February really any different from any other day?
But if you’re single don’t moan about the fact you’re single- why does it matter? Don’t feel depressed about not having someone in your life right now. If you feel so bad about that then go out and change it. Or maybe it is a time for self-reflection? Isn’t being happy in yourself what you should strive for and not having a potentially meaningless relationship so that you can fit in on one day of the year? I know I started feeling a lot better about myself when I realised that just being me was the best thing to be. You wobble every now and again but that’s life.

Love to me is when J holds my hand of her own free will when we walk home from school. It’s having fun with friends. It’s doing something for yourself whether that’s eating something completely superb or listening to songs that make you feel good and singing your heart out in the shower. 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Educating Paris

As many of you might have guessed by now most of my entertaining anecdotes come from the two girls I look after as they are truly quite hilarious and no one really wants to hear about me deciding what kind of lentils to buy or how good at Pointless I am especially when a round about Paris come up.

Teaching English to two French kids might sound boring and hideously annoying which it can be but it also has some gems. Recently I have had some absolute classic “lessons” with them. It was interesting explaining to L that because the UK is an island I do live quite close to the beach. This absolutely shocked her and she thought that I was “on holiday all of the time” because I could go to the beach, I didn’t like to shatter her dreams and tell her West Kirby wasn’t exactly all fine white sand and surfing but rather more underage drinking and Calippos.

She also wasn’t particularly strong on her UK geography, so we had to get a map of Great Britain as she wasn’t 100% sure where Wales was….

We also had to clear up that HARRY POTTER, was BRITISH not AMERICAN. I almost went into full on nerd-mode but tried to stop myself from scaring her too much because she currently thinks I’m cool because we sit and she asks me about me about what kind of food I like and we chat about cake.

So far the girls haven’t necessarily learnt a whole lot of English from me but I feel like we need to work on basic British cultural knowledge, next on the cards eating Fish and Chips and talking about the weather..

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

My Wonderful Girls

L and J are truly hilarious. I’ve just got in from work and it was just too cute not to document. Their mum asked me whether I could babysit them on Friday night. I said I could but that there was something at university (can’t miss ULIP does Take Me Out, now can I?!) so the girls started trying to convince their mum to let me “go and live my life” and that they could look after themselves perfectly as long as they were given the code for the iPad. I think it is safe to say that I have allies in those two even if they are only 12 and 8!

When I was babysitting on Sunday night they had saved some of the crepes they made especially for me and we made menus for what kind of toppings we wanted to have on them. I think J might be the next Heston Blumenthal with her Comte, Tomato, Capers and Mint concoction! She seemed to like it even if I thought it was truly bizarre. I somehow managed to help L with her German homework on the same evening, who knew I could still remember all of the adjective endings? Certainly not me!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

It's Not Always Gay in Paris

What I’m doing is amazing; there is no doubt about that. To be able to spend this amount of time thanks to the wonderful University system but I thought it was important to mention some of the downsides. It would be very easy to paint a rose tinted view of life here but this blog is meant to be about everything in my life here so I can’t fail to mention all of the other bits.

You can be really put off by being in such a big city. I’m sure this isn’t unique to Paris but some days I get really frightened by some of the dodgy characters hanging around the place. Like I was in Carrefour the other day and this guy just started talking to me in a really pervy manner when I was looking at the lentils. He continued trying to talk to me right up until the till, luckily I managed to get away from him but I did feel quite uneasy until I got through my front door.

Some days when I’ve had a stressful day at work, not having understood anything any of them have said to me I lose all faith in my French. After a 15 minute conversation with my boss on the phone I sometimes have to text her asking what she has just told me, which is totally natural as sometimes it’s a bad line and I can’t always understand her accent but certain days it can really get me down.

When I have to force the kids to do some work and to stop watching un diner presque parfait and then they call me Le Mechant Kate it can be so frustrating. Sometimes it is really hard to not just walk out of the door and not return. This always inevitably happens when I have a deadline looming or nothing in the fridge to eat and it all just feels like too much hard work.

Occasionally living alone really gets to me. When I just really need to do something ridiculously silly to cheer myself up or have a hug from someone but can’t and then Adele comes on shuffle and hormones go into self-destruct mode on any happy feeling.  

Wanting to make the most of the opportunity as much as possible but not being able to because of all of the mundane stuff that I have to sort out can be so frustrating. But then I look out across the road or go for a walk to clear my head and everything is alright again. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was like this all of the time but it definitely isn’t easy.

I’ve learnt to appreciate the small things since living here and to not take everything to heart. Today J kept pestering her mum to make sure she had given me the jar of marmalade and I felt so special that she wanted to make sure I had some. Having to make her a hot-water bottle the other night almost made up for not being able to go out with all my friends.

This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Some days I just don’t want to get out of bed, especially when the gardienne doesn’t turn the heating on until the evening but it’s all about making it your own, whether it’s writing a little something for the blog or experimenting with different flavoured pancakes I have to push myself to do something different with each moment that feels a bit too hard to cope with.

But it isn’t just me doing stuff to cheer myself up that helps me through the difficult times. It’s funny emails, weird articles to read and friends planning trips that makes it all better. Oh and a bit of M People – Moving On Up in the shower never fails to disappoint.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

New Year

So I’m back. Well I’ve been back for about two weeks but you what life is like, hectic and all that jazz. Nothing new has happened really but I thought I should give a quick update on how life has been treating me recently.

1.       This week I’ve been asked by L why I don’t have a boyfriend- she’s 12. Let’s just say I was keen to get back to helping her with her homework rather than get romantic advice from a teenager.

2.       I’ve decided my New Year’s Resolution is to learn how to play poker so that I can add Professional Gambler to the list of possible professions.

3.       I’ve received a vast about of Benedict Cumberbatch memorabilia courtesy of my Mum which has cheered me up no end.

4.       I went geo-caching which ended up in us finding nothing and going to McDonalds instead but only after a guy tried to fool us with the “Oh you dropped your ring” scam.

5.       I’ve done an awful lot of babysitting so I have decided to take action by making a serious dent in their stocks of tea. A truly British rebellion.

6.       My boss/landlady told me my flat was dirty and threatened to make her cleaner come and clean for me and that she’d come and inspect. I’m still waiting for that delightful experience…

In the weeks to come I have quite a lot going on really. My old school will be in this neck of the woods on a school trip and want me to help them not get lost. My cousin, Ellie, is coming to do the half-marathon with her friends and Robyn is coming to stay the weekend after that. (This is just a secret ploy to prove I am popular really…) Other things I hope to do are to :-

·         Explore a little bit more

·         Find somewhere to live next year

·         And to start my own collection of home brewed spirits starting with my ginger flavoured gin which I shall call GIN-ger.