Soooo. Someone commented on a post a few days ago saying that they have been reading my blog for a while and they think I am hilarious. No, they really did say that, let me just take a minute to smile smugly to myself... Ok, smug smile gone now. So, they said that, weirdly, their current au pair job would be perfect for me next year and they asked if I wanted to meet up with them for 'English banter'.
I know it sounds like the comment a cunning fifty year old man in corduroy slacks would write in an attempt to lure me to the river for wine and rape, but the girl- Chloe- gave me her email address and she seemed like a genuine English girl and her job did sound perfect for me, so last night I went to meet her and her friend Hannah along the Seine, kind of near the spot where me and Kayt were chased by a gang of hoodlums.
They were indeed real people and we stayed by the river over-sharing and drinking until it was almost time to get the first metro. Chloe had her bicycle with her and suggested that rather than wait half an hour for the metro to open, I could get a Velib and we could cycle home. Now, I always tell everyone that I can't ride a bike, but the idea seemed so pleasing that I was sure I'd be able to if I just jumped on and tried my hardest. I had a little practice on Chloe's bike and I managed to ride round in circles without falling off.
However, about five minutes into our journey home I realised there is a reason I tell everyone I can't ride bike: I can't ride a bike. The pedals were going round really fast without me touching them and I couldn't find my feet, even though they were on the end of my legs. I was wobbling this way and that, swerving towards cars and lorries. Chloe turned round and decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea, so I tried to stop but just fell sideways into the pavement instead.
We put the bike back at the nearest Velib station and I was sad that my first (and last) experience of Paris Velibs was so short and angst-ridden. We didn't have to wait long for the metro to open, as I was looking at them the gates opened to me slowly, as if welcoming me into the underworld. I said goodbye to my Cycling Chum and down I went, into the depths of the deserted metro.
I wandered through the tunnels looking for Line 1, wondering what metro station I was at. (One of the theatre posters made me stop in my tracks, because on it was the photo of an actor I saw in The Caretaker at The Everyman last year [back when I used to be Interested In Stuff]. I vowed to remember what theatre the play was on at but alas, I have no idea.)
I crept past the homeless men in their sleeping bags and found my way onto a flat escalator. As it carried me along the silent metro station I realised how tired I was, suddenly it was an effort not to close my eyes and fall asleep standing up. Through drowsy eyes I then saw a sign telling me the name of the metro station -it was Chatelet- the Worst Metro Station In The World. I wondered why it was taking me so long to get anywhere and why there were so many homeless people down there- it's the metro station that Paris has given up on. Luckily, you can get Line 1 from Chatelet and after much drifting around the still and pungent passageways, I found my platform.
On the platform there were a few other people waiting, all dressed as if they were just starting their day. I was glad I'd just been sat by the river all night instead of in a club; my journey would have been so much worse in high heels and with semi-permanent eyeliner smeared under my tired eyes. I kept nodding off in my little plastic seat.
When the metro finally came I couldn't stop myself from drifting into sleep, into half-conscious dreams. I was half on the metro, my head resting against the shiny plastic, and half in a reality where metro stops weren't places; they were options on a tax form and I had to wait for someone to tick the little box next to my metro station before I could get off.
That nice liminal state you find yourself in sometimes- when you are awake yet still believe in the bizarre world of your dreams- is not a particularly good state to be in on the metro. I almost didn't get off at my stop because I thought someone was going to tick it off on a piece paper, but somehow, my own loud voice cut through the mugginess in my head and I mentally yelled at myself to Get Up and Get Off.
When I came out of the metro it was daylight, I'd even missed the sunrise. I got into bed at half six, set my alarm for four hours later and fell alseep and then it seemed like five minutes later I was waking up again. I managed to drag myself into the shower and find something semi-clean to wear and then the mum of The Family was calling me, going on and on about veal and some sort of singing show.
I wasn't sure that veal would make a very good Hangover Breakfast, but I went to the butcher's anyway and got four pieces of veal for mine and the girl's lunch. I felt ok as I walked to the girls' school, I realised I wasn't even hungover, just really, really tired.
But the school gates were closed. Ten minutes went by and the girls still hadn't come out. I felt something weird in my stomach and I realised it was hunger- I haven't been hungry, not really hungry, for weeks. If I feel even slightly peckish and I'm at work there's always biscuits or cheese or ham to stuff into my mouth, but I wasn't peckish, I was starving and I hadn't eaten anything or even had a drink of water for about twelve hours.
I tried leaning on a post but that didn't help, then I tried sitting on a metal thing that you slot bicycles into, but all the other parents started giving me funny looks. I stood up and went to rest on my pole again. I was hot, too hot, so I took my cardigan off, but I was still too warm. My head started buzzing silently and I remembered my mum saying to me once 'It's horrible, that feeling you get when you know you're going to faint.'
My legs didn't work and I thought 'Shit, I'm actually going to faint'. I tried to walk somewhere but I didn't know where to walk, so I walked round in a little circle, my legs buckling underneath me and my head floating above me, not attached to anything. Then I kind of woke up, without realising I had gone anywhere, and I had a person on either side of me, holding me up, walking me away from the school gates.
I've only ever fainted once before, after a party at Lauren's flat when I dressed up as a French maid and vomited at the end of her bed. The next morning I was getting a drink of water in the kitchen, then I woke up on the living room floor and Lauren's flatmates said "Your friend fainted". Lauren said "She's just pretending, she's doing it for attention." But I really did bloody faint Lauren, if you're reading this!
Anyway, I fainted, even though I Don't Faint, as a rule. There was a man on one side of me and woman on the other, and as they carried me away from the school I tried to say "Je doit... chercher... les enfants.' (I must get the children.) I was Martyr Au Pair- much more fun that being Shit Au Pair, I like to think even better than Super Au Pair.
The man asked me if I'd eaten any breakfast and I said 'no' so then every two minutes he was saying 'Il faut manger le petit-dejeuner!' (You must eat breakfast!) He disappeared and left me with the woman who sounded like she was Portugese but didn't look Portugese, just like many a French person as commented about me (ok, one person). She was talking to me a lot but I couldn't hear words. Everything was dark and I could just make out her mouth moving.
The man came back and gave me a glass of water and a big white pill. I put it in my mouth and let it lie there on my tongue while I drank. It tasted sweet and I realised it was a sugar cube. I ate it and he gave me another one, like I was a horse. It was quite nice actually, being given sugar cubes. I can see why people go in for that pony thing, you know where they pretend to be a horse during sex, and they wear saddles and stuff.
Anyway today I fainted and that was the most exciting part of my day, when the girls came out of school the nanny who helped me told them to look after me but they thought it was hilarious that I'd fainted. They had another friend with them today so I didn't even get any lunch in the end I just cooked their fucking veal for them and then I lay down on the couch while they ate, wishing someone would come and feed me sugar cubes. I'm out now to get Chinese and sit by the river, again, but I don't think I can stomach any more alcohol. I'm going to finish my wedding story tomorrow, because if nobody else cares, I now know that my aunties will probably be reading it.
Also, it was lovely to meet Hannah and Chloe, glad they weren't old men in corduroys.