Thursday, 30 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Yesterday we had a family party to celebrate my brother's 18th birthday and I'm afraid I was rather too quick to jump into the role of 'loud, drunk relative.'
I started drinking very early and drank most of the wine I brought back from France without offering it to anyone else. My mum's cousin's children were there who I don't know very well, and one of them has just got into the Royal Academy of Music to do Musical Theatre and while everyone was gushing over that, I was sat in the corner, swaying from side to side and stuffing cheese into my face. Then someone mentioned that my cousins Sophie and Chloe are also doing drama-related things and everyone started talking about how it must run in the family because there are three youngsters all doing marvellous things in the field of theatrics, and the whole time I was sat in the corner, drinking fizzy wine and nodding silently.
Eventually, someone turned round and noticed me and said "What did you do at univeristy?"
"Drama" I slurred.
"And what are you doing now then?"
Before I could answer 'Not a lot' someone chipped in, "She's living in Paris!"
I have to say this sounds a lot more impressive than the truth (that I wash a strange man's underpants and wrestle French children into the shower), so for a moment I allowed myself to bask in the oohs and ahhs of approval until somebody raised the question I've been trying to avoid:
"So what are you going to do when you come back then?"
A helpful relative suggested that I might 'get back' in to drama and, no word of a lie, I said:
"That dream's dead for me, darling!"
And for some reason I adopted a mime cigarette on the end of a mime cigarett holder and I took a mime drag and flicked the end of my mime pashmina over my shoulder and just for emphasis I added "That dream died, a long time ago."
I felt like the embittered, alcoholic relative who had her day treading the boards at the Royal Court and somehow, maybe following a series of messy divorces and a fraud scandal, I have now escaped to Paris where I spend my days getting drunk on cheap wine and telling American expats about how I could have been a megastar, how they wanted me in Hollywood, but how I threw it all away to marry that Prince in Abu Dhabi, who consequently divorced me upon discovering my reliance on valium.
Even though I was joking, I did say with some sincerity that things could only get more painful for me, as I would soon be watching the showbiz careers of my cousin and second cousin go from strength to strength while my shortlived foray into 'drama' ended with my graduation in July.
My cousin Sophie said "You are twenty one. You are being ridiculous."
Am I though?
Thankfully, I was saved from being the drunk mess when my other cousin, who lives in Serbia and is getting married to a local in May, brought out little bottles of this very strong Serbian spirit. Soon everyone was on their way to being as drunk as I was and at about seven pm, I persuaded my cousins and my brother and a couple of his little mates to make a venture to the local pub. Christmas is, after all, a time for family.
Friday, 24 December 2010
The Eurostar was delayed by two hours but apart from that it was a piece of piss. I'm so, so lucky. My train back to Manchester this morning was delayed as well but who cares about delays? My au pair friend Harriet was supposed to fly back to England today but they evacuated Charles du Gaulle airport because they thought the roof was going to collapse. Now she is stuck in Paris for Christmas and I feel so, so bad. How the hell did I manage to get home?
I think I am so paranoid because things always seem to work out, and it can't go on forever. Doom is just around the corner. I am supposed to be going to the pub tonight for 'Xmas Eve Tequila' but am I pushing my luck? I don't want to die before my Christmas dinner. I was just as paranoid last year and I ended up walking home by myself in the dark snow and the streets were empty and I really felt something terrible was going to happen and I swore I wouldn't do it again.
It's true that you can't live your life scared that something bad will happen, but I have had a lot of good luck lately.
Thank you baby Jesus for getting me home, Happy Christmas everyone.
And Merry Christmas Harriet, karma will pay you back tenfold, I know it!
Thursday, 23 December 2010
They have told me I will not be allowed to check in until an hour before my train, so I am putting my trust in them. If this fucks up, I will probably read that sentence and stab my laptop screen repeatedly with the biggest knife I can find.
Ok, calm calm... it is snowing rather a lot. I am in the kitchen while the kids watch cartoons. I thought everything was going to be fine until Amo text me!
Qu'est-ce le point Amo, ca va mal a la tête ou quoi?
Will someone please pat me on the back and say 'God speed' ?
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Pleeeeease let me get back to England tomorrow. I don't care if I get stuck in London, just please let me get home. Even if I find myself clinging onto the edge of the white cliffs of Dover, I'll be happy, as long as it's England.
The snow is laughing in my face, falling really slowly and steadily as if to say 'What's the rush? I've got all night to ruin your Christmas.'
Tomorrow I am going back to England for Christmas- PLEASE BABY JESUS.
I will definitely be stuck in London overnight because I’ll miss my train back to Manchester. I offered someone £100 to drive me back to Manchester and they said yes, but then I realised that it was only £20 to get the train back the following morning. I have a couple of places to stay lined up, but can't really organise anything as I have no idea what time I'll be able to get on a train. My train is at 8pm, but they have cancelled all trains and are reverting to an 'emergency timetable', so I have to turn up an hour before my original train was due to depart and queue for 'more than three hours.' By 'more' do they mean two minutes more or sixteen hours more?
HOLD THE PHONE.
I was just checking my emails and thinking what to write next, forget what I just wrote, look what Eurostar sent me:
We are pleased to advise that Eurostar has reverted back
to checking-in passengers for the service that you are
I better start packing.
I have completely given up at work, we have just been watching television all day and wrestling and on Monday they didn't even get out of their pyjamas. The mum has been telling me off and told me to take them to interesting exhibitions and things, but I literally have no idea how you are supposed to make kids do things.
There are three of them, I can't grab them all and dress them all and drag them all on to the metro. I can watch Shrek with them all and make them all eat ice cream.
If Super Au Pair was a comic I would definitely be the arch-nemesis- Shit Au Pair. I would have a touching back story, like one day I was an enthusiastic au pair too until the kids I looked after pushed me into a vat of radioactive pumpkin soup and I emerged as a vengeful orange-tinted maniac who smells like stock and forces kids to eat crepes for desert instead of for dinner. (The other night we had lettuce in balsamic vinegar, followed by ONE crepe with sugar, and they said it was their favourite dinner. The mind REELS.)
Being an au pair… let’s just say when I get back to England I’ll be booking myself in for a sterilisation.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
I fucking knew something like this was going to happen and there it was in giant letters above my head 'CANCELLED'. (Mine was the only one as well, typical.) I was going to have to ring the family and tell them that I had snuck off to London without mentioning it and was now stuck. There would be nobody to look after their children all week, they would be furious, I would be fired and also have to go back another time and get all my stuff and it would be AWFUL.
I'm so glad Kat was there, she went off to find someone. While she was away the American couple behind that we had been chatting to tried to ask me something but I was doing that talking/choking/crying thing and they were so embarrassed they stopped talking halfway through a sentence and looked away.
The dancing really helped (I remember saying to Kat: “I’ve been queuing for two hours, I’m going to have a FUCKING dance!”) and also it helped that I don’t think we were completely sober, but it soon started to get cold, very, very, very cold. I completely fucked up Kat’s day but I’m so glad she waited for me, it would have been awful if I’d been stood there by myself.
We decided to get a drink somewhere before going to St Pancras, but then we changed our minds THANK FUCK. I don't know what we were thinking. When we got to St Pancras we had about twenty five minutes to get a hazelnut chocolate before check-in opened. I sat there, having a good chat with Kat and reminiscing about the excellent night we'd just had and I remember thinking these exact words 'I've actually gotten away with it.'
Now. I am a very superstitious person. I can never bring myself to believe good things or forget about possible bad things, because it’s the moment you let your guard down that Everything Kicks Off. It was so unlike me not to interrupt my thoughts with a shuddup shuddup shuddup just act like everything’s going to go wrong shuddup shuddup don’t jinx it and I’m not exaggerating, the SECOND I thought that stupid sentence, my head turned itself towards the concourse and I registered the ridiculously long queue of people.
I don’t want to sound like a stereotypical Manc here, but the music was fucking mint. The first DJ played garage, then I can’t really remember the specifics but I remember grabbing people and saying ‘This is well better than Deadmau5!’ It was all nineties sort of stuff, here are a couple of the highlights I remember (and know the names of):
They even played 'Lyrical Gangsta' that I'd been listening to on the Metro earlier on in the day, before I even knew if I'd make it or not. The moment was so similar to how I had been imagining earlier in the day that I felt like I'd teleported myself from the metro in Paris to the carpark in London.
The anxiety and Travel Panic didn’t cross my mind all night. The moment it disappeared completely was the moment I stepped off the tube at Earl’s Court. Being surrounded by Geezers and Lads all drunk or twisted but all having a good time and looking forward to a good night just made me feel so… at home. I’ve never wanted to be one of those nobs you meet on holiday who goes ‘I hate abroad, England’s the best’ and you feel like saying ‘Why didn’t you go on holiday to Buxton then?!’ but there is nothing like moving to another country to make you appreciate England.
There was no Deadmau5 for me. I’d been daydreaming about would happen if they made us all exit the train and walk for miles in the snow and suddenly it seemed as though that might actually happen, which was weird because normally when you imagine something very specific it doesn’t come true, that’s the only comfort of imaging in glory detail all the horrible things that could happen to you. (For example, it’s pretty unlikely for a man dressed as a whale to climb down your chimney and throw anthrax down your bra, but more so if you’ve just that second been randomly thinking ‘What if a man dressed like a whale climbs down my chimney and throws anthrax down my bra?’)
I tried to think, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get into London dead late and meet them all at Soul Clap, at least you’ve got your ticket printed’ (By the way, by some miracle, all my Eurostar tickets for the next two weeks printed off at the little machine at Gare du Nord.) but I could feel a familiar panic rising up in me… it’s the same panic I always get when I’m lost or very late, or normally both. I think of it as my Travel Panic and when we were sat in the darkness in the snow in Calais, already an hour behind, with not very much money and no phone credit and also the feeling that I was doing something wrong and sneaky, I got Travel Panic very badly.
Thank fuck the train started moving again after about forty minutes. As soon as we reached England I sent my mum one of those free ‘Call Me Back’ texts because she never rings me when I’m France and I needed a bit of Mum Reassurance. She rang me and suddenly I was in hysterics. You know when you’re trying to talk through your tears like a four year old and everyone stares at you? Well I was that hysterical. My mum reassured me by saying what she always says ‘At least you’re having an adventure!’, but she didn’t know that the family I work for had no idea I wasn’t tucked up in bed two minutes down the road, so her point that if I 'just ring them tomorrow and say the trains have stopped and that it's nobody's fault' made me feel worse, not better.
But she pointed out that the whole night would be a waste if I didn’t enjoy it. And she also pointed out that I do actually speak English so I could always grab someone at the station and make him them me how to get to Earl’s Court.
By the time we got to St Pancras, I was calm. I was excited. It was only half seven. (A two hour delay isn’t a six hour delay) I was in England!!
Luck turned around and smiled at me.
I walked past a little office where a kind mind exchanged my Euros into pounds for me!
Then I bounced up to the ticket office and another nice man sold me a zone one card or something and told me what platform to go to!
Then I got on the tube and went to Earl’s Court, didn’t even need to change!
Then I got off the metro and there were loads of young people dressed in leopard-print harem pants and fir jackets and hi-tops and leggings and hoodies and they were all walking in one direction!
I joined in the crowd, my mum rang me, Kat rang me, I had good news to tell and I was in London!
The snow was lovely now; it was Christmassy and English and the night was fun again. I got to Earl’s Court and met Kat. She gave me my ticket and I went inside and I swear I forgot I’d ever even been to Paris.
I didn't take any pictures when we were in there because my camera was in the middle of my Mary Poppins bag which I had to carry because the cloak room was full, although for most of the night Ricky carried it on his back like a turtle which meant I could dance about rather than sway lopsidedly like someones mum at the back of the disco, moving to the beat of Hips Don't Lie whilst holding their kids coat and school bag.
But anyway, here are a couple of pictures Kat took with my camera as were leaving:
Monday, 20 December 2010
On Saturday morning I couldn’t get out of bed, it didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary was going to happen. I eventually dragged myself up, checked I had my passport and put three outfits on one on top of the other, because I didn’t know what to wear and it was freezing. It was snowing. I had a bad feeling about the Eurostar.
At the metro stop, I couldn’t get on because the machine that takes notes was broken, so I walked around in the snow looking for the mythical ‘other entrance’ they always tell me about, getting more and more irate until I eventually gave up, went back to the metro station and bought a soggy, microwaved pain au chocolat from the disgusting food counter just to get change. As I was buying my ticket they announced that the other machine was working, so that was my first bit of travel grief.
On the metro from mine I listened to some nineties dance music and the first wave of excitement came over me. I imagined being in a grotty car pack in the early hours, dancing to this:
I got off the metro at Chatelet which is the Most Hated Metro Station Full Stop, because it is so fucking big and grimy. I walked around for ten minutes and ended up on the platform I had just got off at. After another five minutes I ended up walking up a very long staircase that was devoid of life until I reached the top and found a group of about fifteen Eastern European men bellowing and playing accordions.
I eventually found the right platform for the RER but they announced in French something that made everyone groan and walk away from the platform, so I followed everyone for another ten minutes until we were at a different RER platform. I asked everyone around me for help but it was the first time that I been in Paris and strangers haven’t tried to speak English to me, so when I got on the RER I had no idea where it was going. Luckily, it went in the right direction.
I stopped off at Lauren’s because she was going to get the Eurostar too and there’s a print shop near her house- I needed to print off my Eurostar tickets and my ticket for Soul Clap which is where we were going after Deadmau5. Unfortunately, when I checked my emails, it was all in French and it wouldn’t let me print my train tickets off, so I just printed off my ticket for Soul Clap and prayed that I wasn’t being a complete idiot trying to do this secret trip, in the snow, with no tickets, so close to Christmas.
At Gare du Nord, me and Lauren separated because her train was before mine. Three other people we know were also on the same train and I couldn’t help wondering if I should have booked the earlier Eurostar. Mine was supposed to get in at half five, which would give me and Kat just enough time to get to her 'friend' Ricky’s house (who we met in Ibiza) to drop our stuff off and then set off for Earl’s Court to see Deadmau5.
I found out that all Eurostars were taking an extra hour because of the snow, so that was me late for Deadmau5 already. Then I heard that more people were buying tickets for Eurostar because loads of flights were being cancelled. I had a horrible feeling that tomorrow I wouldn’t be able to get back.
When they eventually said we could board the train, I felt like I was doing the wrong thing. A little voice said in my head: ‘There’s no going back now, what are you doing?? Why do you think you can pull this off, you who can’t even make pumpkin soup?? You will fuck up Christmas for that family and you will have to ring them and explain that you are in England and after they get over the initial shock of discovering you have left the country, they will have to learn that their ‘childcare’ is stuck in London and isn’t coming back.’
But I got on the train because… because how shit would I feel if I just fucked the whole thing off? How many promises broken and how much money wasted and much dancing left undanced?
As the train got into the French countryside, the riskiness of the situation hit me. Alright, I wasn’t escaping from a prisoner of war camp, but the snow was so thick outside you couldn’t tell where the snowy fields ended and the white sky began. I was supposed to be resting in Paris, conserving my energy for my four 11 hr days of work, thinking of inspiring activities to do with the children. Instead I was going to London for some ravey times and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back.
I realise this doesn’t sound very dramatic but I was So. Scared. I was bouncing around in my seat, shitting it. I was already an hour late, but I had no credit on either of my phones and then Kat text me saying she couldn’t meet me at St Pancras, all her mates couldn’t make it because the snow was so bad in England and that she’d have to meet me at Earl’s Court.
The Tube scares me, so that text made me feel all anxious and terrified. What if Kat didn’t make it? What if I couldn’t find Earl’s Court? I only had thirty Euros on me and my credit card was blocked. But then I breathed. What was the worst thing that could happen? I would be stuck at St Pancras, I would find somewhere to change my euros and I would buy lots of tea and crisps and I would get the Eurostar straight back the next day and I would write about it on my blog and tell my friends about it and they’d laugh and I’d feel a bit better.
And that was the worst case scenario anyway, it was much more likely that I’d get to London, sort the tube out and meet them all at Earl’s Court, just in time for the main event. I could almost see his mouse-eared silhouette against a screen of lights and I was looking at him from a crowd of happy, lairy English people. For the first time I could envision myself being there…
Then the train stopped. The lights went out. They announced that we were stranded in Calais because the electricity had gone and they didn’t know how long it would take to sort out. I could see that big round mouse head flashing and bobbing about before me, fading into the distance, being swallowed by a white fog of dry ice, or was it the fucking snow?
I’m sure nobody is asking themselves these questions because nobody gives a fuck, but to me this weekend has been a little adventure and I want to write it down word by word so that I can relive it, after all, what’s that quote about how writers write to taste life twice?
It’s nearly one am and I know I’m not Having a Rave, Dave, but I’m going to go to bed. I have to look after three kids for eleven hours tomorrow and they don’t like me and we don’t speak the same language and it is the Christmas holidays and they are expecting me to have planned lots of fun things to do with them and in fact I have a sheet of Christmas stickers and my coat smells like damp car park.
On the other hand, if I stay up all night it will be like this weekend never ended, so I might stay up for a bit longer, photoshopping the pictures from Saturday night because I cried all my make-up off on the Eurostar when we broke down in Calais and we were already supposed to be at St Pancras…
Saturday, 18 December 2010
Oh fuck it is snowing loads as well in England isn't it?
Friday, 17 December 2010
It was quite magical actually, tonight I had to to take one of the little girls to her horse riding (normally she goes with her mate and her au pair (ha) but the little mate was off on her hols today) and it was in the middle of some huge foresty park and it started snowing when we were on the bus so when we got off it was like we had arrived in Narnia.
Taking the little girl to horse riding worked out in my favour because instead of making the kids shower and eat failed pumpkin soup, I just got to sit in a cafe for an hour drinking hot chocolate and then when we got home the mum said I could go, didn't have to make dinner or wrestle with any soap-dodgers or anything.
Since Soupgate, work has been really good TOUCH WOOD, so it would be a shame if I fuck up this weekend and accidentally get myself 'stranded' in another country. It will be so nice being back in England this weekend, but I wish I didn't have to come back for four days, it's sooo annoying, but I'd already booked to go to London for the gig when I got this new job and they told me I couldn't go home until the day before Christmas Eve. Still, next week will be good because I'll have supplies of mince pies and tea- I've used my last tea bag three times already and I don't think I can face using it again.
Can't believe tomorrow is tomorrow, if you know what I mean. I'm not really excited because part of me things something is going to go drastically wrong and it won't end up happening, so fingers crossed, this time tomorrow I'll be running round London!
I told you mermaids existed!
In other news, got a very suspicious email from Eurostar:
Our plan is to run a full service over the busy Christmas period. We are also monitoring the weather forecasts closely as there are fresh warnings of snow in the UK, France and Belgium over the weekend and into the early part of the next week.
Is this what they call a paralipsis? (And is my subscription to Word-a-Day finally paying off?)
Universe, please help me not to get stuck in London this weekend and get fired, especially as the family do not know I will be out of the country. Argh. There's no way I am missing Deadmau5... but would I, if I was told tomorrow there would definitely be snow on Sunday? What is more important to me, good times or good morals?
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Today I went into the kitchen to cook lunch and saw four brown bananas and a pan sat on the hob with a lid on it. Sometimes the mum leaves things out to 'help' with lunchtime or dinner, so I tentatively took the lid off the pan and peered inside...
It was my old enemy, the pumpkin, stewing in his own juices, the sick bastard.
I almost felt sad to see my arch nemesis reduced to such a pathetic form ; water-logged, hacked into pieces, boiled with a stock cube and left to float all day in a salty, starchy broth of his own making. But most of all I was triumphant. I gave the bastard a poke with a wooden spoon and rang up the mother to ask what she had left it there for. She said she thought I could make soup with it...
Part of me thought 'So soon? After my pumpkin soup disaster? What makes you so sure this time will be different?' but another, even stronger part of me spoke out: "After Soupgate?! Are you fucking kidding me? These kids ain't getting soup for LONG TIME."
I didn't say it in those exact words, but the mother got my drift and said I could leave it to her to make the soup or I could purée it... Why do they want me to purée everything? When I go back to England I might buy loads of baby food and give the kids that for dinner if they like puréed veg so much.
Speaking of England...
Saturday! Can't wait, I'm going to bring back mince pies and tea bags and presents for the French children. Don't know what to get them really. I don't even know what to get my own family. I have just been buying soap and jam so it looks as though everyone’s getting that, but I have no idea really what I'm doing.
My credit card suffered a major trauma yesterday when I had to pay for a trimester of French lessons, so looks like the coke-fuelled jaunts to cocktail bars in designer heels I had planned for the holidays are off.
It’s a bit weird because I know I am going to England so I want to buy loads of things to bring back but I am only back for four days and I need to save my money for Christmas presents really. My mum said she doesn’t want ‘anything specific, but I would like a scarf from a vintage shop, with blues or greens in it’.
Only nine days til Christmas!
And on a completely unrelated note, the Portugese couple who normally keep me up all night with their insanely vocal love-making (sometimes the woman sings, I am not joking- I could hear moaning and groaning and singing and I thought 'Are they shagging or singing?' and then I realised 'Oh they are doing both') kept me up last night with their aruguing, which is just as passionate as their sexual intercourse noises. Well, really I only ever hear the woman, even when they are arguing, so maybe it is not a couple at all but just a mad woman who likes to masturbate a lot.
No but I have seen them together in the corridor and they seem nice, but part of me wants them to break up just so I don't have to listen to them argue anymore and also so I can go round and ask the guy to give me some of this mind-blowing sex his girlfriend seems to enjoy so much... seriously, I have never heard of anyone enjoying sex so much, all night, at such a volume.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Today is my little brother's 18th birthday, soo weird. I know I go on all the time about time flashing by but I CAN NOT believe that I remember my brother being born and now he is old enough to go out clubbing. I am so old, may as well be dead. But not before I see Deadmau5 on Saturday!!It doesn't feel like Saturday is actually happening, but it is!!!!!
Meeting Big Kaf in London, where she will escort me from St Pancras to Euston so I can see the correct way to go for when I come home next week as I don't want to end up in Camden again, then we will probs get something to eat and I will hopefully get some mince pies and tea bags to bring back as I am down to my LAST TEABAG which is a disaster, then we are going to see Deadmau5 supported by Magnetic Man (eek) then off to Soul Clap, then getting the Eurostar back at 1pm on Sunday.
I have no idea why I booked my Eurostar back on Sunday so early, but at least I will definitely be back in time to start work on Monday. The family don't realise I am going to London and now it is kind of too late to tell them and really, they don't need to know.
The only danger is that I will take some of these 'dodgy pills' that are apparently lurking about and will be hospitalised and then fired for being a drug-taking whore who goes to London and doesn't tell them, but obviously I don't do drugs so should be fine.
Eeee! Only ten days till Christmas!! I am trying to get myself in the holiday mood by listening to Christmas songs and watching The Snowman on Youtube, but The Snowman is one of things that is so soul-destroyingly sad and nostalgic that it hurts me a little bit to watch it. So far I have only managed to watch up until the point when he starts building the snowman. I will get through it tonight though, I love it.
I don’t know what is sadder: the moment when he realises the Snowman has melted with that gorgeous music in the background; or watching the whole thing, then looking out of my window and seeing an empty street somewhere in France instead of miles and miles of English countryside blanketed in snow.
Oh its so tragic!!
Monday, 13 December 2010
I don't know why badly paid jobs like being a cleaner and looking after other people's children are considered 'low skill'.
They are Very. Difficult.
I was moaning to Lauren at the weekend, saying 'Oh I'm so shit I can't even do someone else’s washing and make their kids obey me, how am I ever going to get a proper job if I can't even do this?' and she pointed out that it is stupid to think like this. Being an au pair or a live in maid or whatever is not an easy job, so it doesn't mean I am a pleb if I am struggling. And also it is pretty insulting to people who are cleaners to go around saying "If I can't even do your piss-easy job, there is no hope for me."
Tonight it all kicked off with the three kids because I gave them soup for dinner. There was a big pan of homemade soup in the fridge and last week the mum had a go at me for not using soup up the day after it has been made, so I thought, right we'll have the soup to please the mum and we'll have snails for starters to please the kids. They are obsessed with snails and they have them in the freezer in packs of twelve from Picard which is like a frozen Waitrose, or a luxury Iceland.
Anyway after the snails they caught sight of the soup on the hob and they went siiick. The eleven year old girl stormed off saying they had had soup 'every night' and she rang the mum and was bitching about me in French.
"You can make rice or purée!" the kids yelled.
I wanted to yell back "I'm not the weird one!!! Rice or pureed veg is not 'dinner', rice with chicken tikka masala and naan bread is normal, or roasted vegetables served with roasted meat and gravy is normal, not plain fucking rice or pureed fucking vegetables!!'
I didn't shout this, but I did shout quite a lot tonight. They wouldn't come for their dinner, they wouldn't have a shower, and they wouldn't answer me. The only thing they would do is shout 'putain' at me which they use to mean fuck or shit as well as to call people a 'whore'. I yelled 'Don't say putain to me!' and they went all quiet because they didn't think I'd understand.
This was all before they came to the dinner table and ate the snails and realised there was soup for dinner. After the soup revelation or Soupgate as I'll call it from now on, I was really worried that the mum would be mad at me, because even though the mum had told me snails followed by soup is a perfect 'dinner' and even though she had told me I must use up soup if I see it in the fridge, the kids made me feel as if I was doing something ridiculously wrong.
That’s the thing with spending so much time with kids. You loose your common sense bit by bit until one day you are letting them eat ice cream for dinner whilst they paint the house turquoise blue.
The situation got worse and worse but something the mum said to the eleven year on the phone made her sit down and attempt to eat her soup and the other two followed suit. But then the oldest asked me to pass her some bread. So I passed her what was left of the French baguette. It was not a large amount but in the French way she exclaimed 'All this!?' (You don't need to read that book 'Why French Women Don't Get Fat', I'll tell you the answer- it's because they don't eat big portions and they don't eat between meals, simple) so I said "Just tear a bit off" and she shook her head and said 'You don't know!' and went to get a knife.
They say this a lot. They say 'You don't know' when I don't put balsamic vinegar on the salad (I thought I'd let them put their own on because a lot of five year olds in England wouldn't eat salad swimming in balsamic vinegar, but before I could explain this I was drowned out by a chorus of 'You don't know!' and they proceeded to add so much vinegar that none of them could eat it), they say 'You don't know' when I eat the stalk of my broccoli, they say 'You don't know' when I leave the skins on the potato...
You get home and you think 'What do I know?'
And it turns out, not a lot. I don't know what I'm going to do after Paris, because I don't know what I could possibly do. What job could I do, really? What job in the whole world? I can't do cleaning, cooking or looking after children, I can't do maths or science or business type things, I can't speak a foreign language or make baskets or talk to horses. I can make tea, but sometimes I fuck that up if I'm not paying attention and I pour too much milk in or don't leave the bag in for long enough. The only really good thing I can do is sleep. I can make myself sleep if I am bored. Is this a skill I make money from? Probs not, I fear.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Actually I had two people in bed with me last night, but unfortunately it was Lauren and her friend Kag, not Hugh Jackman and his non-famous but equally attractive gypsy friend. I'm so relieved I've got my double bed back, otherwise we would have had to sleep sitting up, side by side.
On Friday I went to my first 'house party' in Paris, although technically it was an apartment party. It was really fun apart from the guy who squeezed in between me and Lauren and said 'Are you into social experiments?' He was no fun at all.
Saturday I was very hung-over yet still managed to purchase some black boots from a vintage shop at Bastille and go to the writer's group at Shakespeare & Co. I read out my piece, 'Dogs and Violence' even though the lady with her dog was there. I felt a bit psychotic reading it out in the presence of a dog, but it went down well... ish... I think... who knows? Who cares? I've learnt now that I like the sound of my voice so much that I will read out anything to anyone. Everyone at the group is very intellectual. They kicked off the session by asking what book everyone wanted for Christmas and I said Peter Rabbit. Still, if I let myself be embarrassed by everything terrible I say and do I'd never leave the house.
Today I went to the Pompidou Centre, saw some modern art, then I bought some soap... I really don't know what to get people for Christmas. The pressure is on to bring back interesting Parisian-themed gifts and I seem to have spent all my money on chocolate and gummy bears.
I need money for next weekend as well- Deadmau5 on Saturday!!! I'm so very excited, the only problem is that while I have told the family I work for that I am going to a 'concert', I don't think they know it is in another country... It doesn't make much difference to them I suppose except if the snow comes along again and causes havoc I'll be stuck in London and they'll have no one to pick their kids up late from school and cook them disgusting, ill-planned meals.
Should I bring it up or not? It hasn't snowed this weekend so might be ok, although this week has been so cold and the snow was sticking at one point.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
I also like the guy who says if he didn't get EMA he'd be selling drugs. Surely it's not worth the risk if dealing drugs only gets you £30 a week?
I voted Lib Dem because this is what they had to say on university education, in fact it still says this on their website:
For those youngsters leaving school, university is getting more and more expensive. To get a degree, young people are saddled with thousands of pounds of debt when it is tough enough to get a job, get on the housing ladder and make ends meet.
Liberal Democrats believe university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.
It's pretty obvious that the only way to combat the problems above is... to raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year? Ok then. I know some Lib Dems voted against but that seems pretty naff comapred with the protesters. It would be so hilarious if the Lib Dems in opposition just got up and started smashing stuff and spitting at the Tories. In all seriousness I think it's their only shot of getting back in everybody's good books.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
My reign as Super Au Pair was sad and fleeting.
It felt briefly like I was on my way up; flying along the Parisian skyline whilst people below gawped and gossiped.
"She changed bedding." they would say
"I heard she made a quiche." someone else might exclaim.
Then, maybe a cat lady would speak out from the darkness of her feline-filled alleyway and everyone in the crowd would spin round to listen, "They say she tidied up the little boy's room and then made all the kids have a shower."
Some people in the crowd might doubt that last sentence (and in fact, they would be right to, as the oldest girl just wet her feet and rubbed shower gel on her shoulders so that her mum would just think she had had a shower) but nonetheless, they'd all turn their gazes back to the girl in leggings flying through the sky carrying footballs and dance shoes and horse riding equipment and satsumas and they'd think 'She could save us all...'
Then a giant fucking over-salted stock cube would come flying out of nowhere and smack me out of the air and down towards the dark streets, where I would have to stagger up, dishevelled and dirty and with the bitter taste in my mouth of What Might Have Been.
I decided to make pumpkin soup. There was a big chunk of pumpkin in the fridge that was going out of date and I had a brainwave. I went back to the house after dropping the little boy off at school in the afternoon whereas normally I would go home and see how many cups of tea and Prince biscuits I can fit in before its time to pick him up again. I then decided to make roasted pumpkin soup. I was sure the kids would hate 'heat' of any kind, ruling out black pepper, chilli, curry powder, chorizo etc but I thought I can at least roast it to give the pumpkin some Flavour.
The little girl has been asking me lately to make chocolate brownies from this stupid cookbook the Australian au pair left (the real Super Au Pair, who used to 'spend hours in the kitchen' and is currently working with orphans in Tanzania, no word of a lie). It's stupid because it has recipes for things like 'spicy meatballs and spaghetti'. I could make spicy meatballs if I wanted, but why would I when the kids won't even eat potato wedges that have white pepper on them? Anyway, it has a recipe for chocolate brownies which the kids keep asking me to make.
So I thought; roasted pumpkin soup followed by homemade chocolate brownies. I went to the house after dropping the little boy back off at school after lunch. Normally I go straight back to mine and see how many cups of tea I can fit in before it's time to pick him up again, but I thought no, I'll go and do some serious cooking and housework.
I put the pumpkin in to roast. I sorted out the washing. A red cape emblazoned with the letters 'S' 'A' 'P' (for Super Au Pair) began flapping around my shoulders... But then I realised there weren't enough ingredients to make the brownies. There was, however, a huge bunch of grapes that was almost ready for the bin. Remembering how the mother told me I needed to use up everything in her fridge and how she hated waste, I decided to make a fruit crumble using the grapes and some pears. The grapes had seeds in, so I sat down and proceeded to peel and deseed the massive bunch of browning-grapes. It took me about forty minutes but I could hear a faint whisper outside the window as I peeled. I strained to listen. It sounded like a distant chant. I couldn't make out the words but it sounded something like Super Au Pair, Super Au Pair...
The fruit went in a pan to stew. The pumpkin came out of the oven and it was roasted to perfection. Maybe if I’d stopped there, quit while I was ahead… I think it will always haunt me, that moment when I took the tray out of the oven and popped a small chunk in my mouth. An idea drifted across my consciousness: ‘Maybe I should serve roasted pumpkin as it is?’ But I was greedy and drunk from my own success. I was a fool.
I put the pumpkin in a pan and added two stock cubes and a little boiling water. I let them simmer while I got the Magi Mix out and tried to work out how to use it. It wouldn’t work, no matter what button I pressed. I found an electric handheld whisk that might work and decided to leave it for the time being. I made the crumble topping, improvising and flamboyantly tossing the ingredients about, high on food-creating power.
After the crumble was put in the oven, it was time to finish the soup. I had about half an hour left before I had to leave to pick up the kids from school, but it was fine- I was on top, I was organised, I was Super Au Pair. And that’s when that fucking stock cube revealed itself to be a massive life-destroying bastard.
It was too salty; way, way too salty. So I added more water; way, way too much water. So it didn’t mix properly and it made way, way too much mess to clean up in half an hour. The resulting orange slop was not passable as a soup. I put it in a pan and in a last ditch attempt to salvage the situation I added a carton of cream, hoping it would thicken up. But the cream was UHT Badness in disguise and it curdled and spat at me and I knew it was over.
The cape slipped from my shoulders, the crowds turned their backs to me and I was left alone, in a stranger’s kitchen that I had made a mess of, late to pick up their children from school and to top it off, I knew we would return home to a feast of nothing. As the crumble bubbled and thickened in the oven, I grimly remembered the haphazard way I’d made up the proportions of flour, sugar and butter and I knew the ‘inspired’ pinch of cinnamon would be my downfall. There was also the undeniable fact that 'grape crumble' is not a thing.
I threw my coat on and ran into the slush-filled streets, with a dark sense of dread hot on my heels, shadowing the day like a death. And there was a death- the death of a pumpkin, yes, but also the death of my Hope.
I’ll often look back on that day and freeze frame the moment I took the pumpkin out of the oven. Maybe if I’d stopped there I’d be flying above the Eiffel Tower right now, dropping down to skim my fingers on the surface of the Seine, surprising a rowing boat of students who would say:
‘That’s got to be Super Au Pair.’
Monday, 6 December 2010
After the little 'talking to' I was given on Friday night, I decided that this week would be the week that I shed my scruffy, half-arsed caterpillar skin and transform myself into a Super Au Pair Butterfly. But first, I had the weekend to revel in. I always used to hate the thought of 'living for the weekend' and naïvely thought that life is only worth living when you experience sheer joy and pleasure every second of every day, but being an au pair is definitely a job where it's ok to look forward to the weekend.
(In my other job of course I could do what I wanted every single day between the hours of nine and four, but there's so only so much fun you can have with fifty cents and a bowl of reheated wheat, no matter how much free time you have in which to enjoy said shiticles*.)
Every weekend I've been cramming the delicious food and museums in. On Saturday I kicked off with a chocolate éclair and a cookie to get change for the metro, which now that I think about it was such a rash decision; I wish I'd gone for one very expensive thing instead of two generic things you can buy in Morrison’s, but we live and learn. Then I went to the Musee D'Orsay with Kay, where we were disappointed to learn that the big, famous painting of an ungroomed vajayjay they have was on loan to the Louvre. After that my heart wasn't really in it. (Although my close friends will be wondering why I had to go to a museum to see an ungroomed vajayjay when I could just- whoa! I can hear my Overshare Alarm blaring, better stop there.)
Incidentally, Kay fixed my sofa-bed the other day! I now have a fully-functioning double bed in case any prospective Dubstep DJs are reading this... although if I'm not getting a taxi home where will my fondue-money come from!?
Actually the financial repercussions from that controversial Taxi Money are still affecting my social life; tonight I didn't have to pay for wine at dinner with eight people I had never met before. They said it was their treat for meeting me, but really they meant it was their treat for hearing the story. I don't whip the story out at every social occasion like an abnormally large and nicely-formed penis, but someone turned to me who I was talking to about dubstep and said 'Did you see (insert name of secret dubstep DJ here) at Social Club the other day?' and well- withholding the truth is as bad as lying.
Going back to my bed though, here is what Kay wrote on my Facebook wall about it:
Enjoy your double bed tonight!!! (ok ill stop going on about it now, its just how i did it in like the flick of a finger after all that pushing and pulling - very proud moment)! xxxx
Roffle. (If you spell them phonetically, MSN acronyms are ironic, not a sign that you need to Close The Laptop and Walk Away.)
Anyhoo… after Musee D’Orsay where we unfortunately didn’t look at a lady garden in its natural and healthiest state of wild abandon (some people might say), me and Kay went to… drum roll please… a writer’s group at Shakespeare and Company. I have been wanting to go to the writer’s group there since before I moved to Paris so I was vair vair keen and so on but also quite nervous. The other people in the group were… let’s say intellectual and if not snobby then... well I don’t quite know what. People read out anything they had brought along and the rest of the group offered their thoughts. One man read out a short story, someone else a poem and two people read out extracts from novels they are working on.
I was really nervous and felt quite a lot of pressure as I was clearly the stupidest person in the room, apart from the dog that one of them brought with them for some reason. It kept leaping about and barking and at one point it was sat next to me wagging its tail in my face and edging closer and closer until I screamed ‘I’m scared of dogs!’ at which point everyone in the room stopped and stared. I’m not even scared of dogs. Well, I am quite scared of them sometimes but this dog was fine but I was all edgy and nervous and trying to concentrate on this woman’s prose about a man playing Proust or something and the words just sort of leapt out of my mouth like a mad frog out of a matchbox. (Except matchboxes don’t have snaggletooths in them.)
This is why it is always best for me to not speak in academic situations for at least three weeks, otherwise random crap spurts from my moth before I have time to think. I want to go again next week and take some writing just so they know that I can at least write a little bit and am not just a random dog-phobe. Although, and you probably think I making this up now but I swear I am not, I started writing something at the weekend called Dogs and Violence which is about a girl who is scared of dogs and thinks violent things about them. I know it sounds mental but I think I am going to take that and read it out, because even though it will fuel their suspicions I am Disturbed, it might help explain why I am so certain that dogs are Something To Be Feared.
It’s funny to think of me sat there in that musty room at Shakespeare and Company, surrounded by shelves of ancient, ancient books and calm, intelligent, possibly sneering strangers. Four or five hours later I was surrounded by strangers shouting putain at me in the unisex toilets of a club called Le Cave and there was no ‘possibly’ about their sneering. They chased us out of the club and as we left I vaguely remember threatening darkly to batter them all. We were on Rue de Princesse which is a hive-like little street filled with bars that Real French People go to. Me, Amy and her friend Caz from home were definitely a horrendously drunk novelty. After our pitch-fork moment at Le Cave, we tried another club but there was some confusion and Caz was suddenly calling the bouncer a cunt and, always unthinkingly glad to call someone bigger and stronger than me a cunt, I joined in gleefully. We then went back to Le Cave and stayed until four am and then it really was time to go home for the hideously-behaved English girls who had started drinking seven hours earlier. I’d recommend Rue de Princesse, although it was expensive, but slightly cheaper than most places in Paris. It was about ten euros for a cocktail I think. I was just about to say that we didn’t any cocktails but then I got a flashback of us all chinking mojitos and toasting something. And a tall bald man bought us more shots.
English people are disgusting. But fun, very fun I think. We seemed to be having more fun than anyone else anyway. With Caz at the helm we were making three or four new friends and enemies a minute. She bought us shots on her card and I always admire someone who can’t keep their bankcard in their purse on a night out.
I’ve gone off on a lot of random tangents tonight. I should go to bed soon if I am to wake up bright as a Chubba Chubb tomorrow and continue on spiritual journey to becoming Super Au Pair. Today I didn’t exactly nail it, but I made a quiche (minus the pasty at first but I realised my idiocy just as I began to pour it directly into the oven. Sometimes when I do things like this I don't want to leave the house because I am scared of what I will do). And I changed the bedding, which was long overdue by normal people’s standards. (She will change your bedding once in four weeks, she’s suuuuuuuuuuuuper au pair!)
When I left the little boy chased after me for a kiss and kissed me about thirty times. Is this all it costs to buy a child’s love- quiche and clean bedding once a month?
But I am seriously going to buck my ideas up mister, you betcha. I have even bucked up my ideas on the au pair pals front. Until Friday I was the au pair loner at the park which was tragique. There is a gang of English-speaking au pairs who chill near the trees and I’ve never struck up a convo with them, nor them with me. I have been feeling like the playground reject, which is exactly how I felt in the other park I took the Family Thrift kids to. In that park in the 7th Arrondissement there was:
- African Nannies
- Chinese/Vietnamese Nannies
- English Speaking Au Pairs (made up of me and that girl who I never spoke to until after I left)
- American, French and English Mothers (they never spoke to me, the ‘hired help’)
- French Mothers Who Don’t Like Americans or English People.
The last group was actually spearheaded by a French grandmother and they were always fighting with the African Nannies. It was exactly like The Warriors, only with buggies and babies in trench coats.
The order of things is slightly different in this park, yet I am somehow still the playground reject. However, on Friday an au pair from Norway who is ‘in’ with the English Speaking Au Pair gang started speaking to me because nobody else had arrived yet and she’s invited me to go to the cinema with her tomorrow night. Also, at dinner tonight one of the girls there said she knows me from the park. What she actually said was ‘You’re the au pair whose always running after her kids’ and I had to convince her that I am running with them, with them...
She was the au pair who I talked to about dubstep so it looks like I might have an inning with the Playground Pack. However, that phenomenon we call coincidence will not stop knocking on my whoreish door… She said that one of the girls she chats to at the park knows the Dubstep DJ (that I tangoed with and who paid me more than enough taxi money if you’ve not been paying attention).
Apparently she is one of his good friends.
*Shiticle = a shit article and/or an article that is shit, for example: a cabbage-themed cermaic bowl; a JUST IN! Novelty Phallic Shaped Hip Flask; and 'Why We Owe The Arabs Nothing' by Robert Kilroy-Silk).