Saturday, 27 August 2011

Goodbye Cows, Goodbye Bull.

Shitting Hell. My mum is giving me a lift to the train station in three hours and I haven't packed yet. I can't do anything until it is the absolute last minute. I am going to write a quick blog post and have a cup of tea, then I might paint my nails and watch a tiny bit of television, and then I will probably eat some breakfast and stare at my stomach in the mirror poking it for a few minutes, and then I promise I will start packing straight away.

I have a horrible feeling my bag is going to be way overweight and my hand luggage us going to be too big. But no point worrying about that until the absolute last minute.

Ah, England, when will I see you again? Probably Christmas, maybe October if I have the time off work and I can magic the money from somewhere... There are a few tempting nights in London that I have already started considering but really, I need to learn my lesson from last year: the fact that I am flying to Ibiza on Monday with not as much cash I would like (400 euros, but most of that will go on tickets and taxis, and I have to save some money for my bus from Charles de Gaulle airport) is all down to my Reckless Spending last year.


If I had a time machine, I wouldn't go back and change anything, because I had a really good time and that is all that matters.

Argh! I am so excited to go to London this weekend, because I can't wait to go to Ibiza on Monday, and then I am off to Paris for some adventures.

I'm a little sad to leave England though. I just stood on the back step and took a last look at the misty hills and the cows. They are beef cows, so they might all be burgers when I come back. Jim the Bull, who has tormented me all summer with his bullish, noisy ways, even said goodbye to me in his terrifying bull-noise language.

Shit. Right. I really need to go and pack now.

This will be my last post from England, next time I will be writing to you from my new Parisien home.

Thanks for all the recent comments by the way, I have replied to everyone.

Bye for now, au revoir, I don't know what the Spanish is for goodbye but I know what hello is and in two days I'll be saying:

Hola, Ibiza!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Two Teas and Seven Sausages

Today I have consumed seven sausages- my Ibiza diet is going spectacularly well.

It wasn't my fault though, I had two sausages for breakfast thinking I had met my sausage quota for the day, then in the evening my Moderate Eating Plan was blown out of the fatty water as I was confronted by a classic case of 'Two Teas'. First I called in to see my grandma, who decided to cook a whole pack of eight sausages, even though she eats like a small bird, so she had two and then practically force-fed* me the rest. (They were quite small sausages though so I'm only counting them as five.) Still, we also had chips and green beans with the sausages so that's all right isn't it?

When I got home my mum had roasted a chicken and made baked potatoes because I have been talking about them all summer, and I couldn't resist the hot, buttery, cheesy-ness.

So. Two teas. Seven sausages. I can't wait for the holiday snaps- I will be the blur in the corner, running out of shot in my pillow case because that is all I could find to fit me.

Talking of clothes... my missing Ibiza Clothes from last year still haven't turned up, I'm going to venture into the loft tomorrow to have a look, but my mum swears there are no clothes up there. I don't want to believe they have really gone because that means I only have a boob tube and three bikinis to take to Ibiza, plus a pair of really unflattering denim shorts.

I am excited to go to Ibiza, OF COURSE I AM, but I am just a little bit stressed about money. I have, basically, not enough euros and I have five pounds in English money to last me from now until I get to Ibiza on Monday, including tube fare around London and taxi to the airport. Luckily I won't need any money for food, as I have eaten enough today to last five days.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Loose Ends

Right, in less than two weeks I will back in Paris to do start a New Era of Left Bank Manc; there are a few things from last year that I hinted at or started blogging about and I left them dangling in the air like broken spider webs, so I am going to tie up some loose ends right now before I can't be bothered again...

The Royal Wedding
Ok, so in April it was the Royal Wedding and I hinted that me and my friends had something 'hilarious' planned in my post Hilda Ogden Comes to Paris. Then I never mentioned it again, sorry for that... (as if anyone if arsed). Our 'hilarious' plan was, in hindsight, not so hilarious, because we got too drunk to carry out the plan properly. Basically, we ordered cardboard cut outs of Kate and William for our Royal Wedding Party and we were going to take them out all over Paris and take photos of them on the metro and in front of the Eiffel Tower etc.

However, after a few hours of drinking Pimms (imported especially for the occasion by Clare) none of us fancied carrying the happy couple and we realised most bars probably wouldn't let us in with life-size cardboard cut-outs. So Kate and William stayed in Clare's flat but we had a lovely time wearing tiaras and waving little flags and we did find the cut-outs Very Funny. Erm, perhaps it's one of those things where 'you had to be there'...

Personally Recommended
A couple of days after we celebrated the Royal Wedding, I wrote two posts called Personally Recommended and Personally Recommended Part 2. I wrote about meeting a French Person after my mum's friend's cousin Facebook messaged me about his cousin who lived in Paris, saying we should meet up if I wanted to practice my French and be shown around by a native.

If you read the posts you'll know that after some very confusing phonecalls me, Kayt and Emma went to meet this cousin of my mum's friend's cousin and he (and his friends) turned out to be really nice. Me and Kayt thought we could definitely meet up with them again, get them to take us to some little underground ravey places, and practice our French.

The French Person in question also happened to live next to one of favourite restaurants, Chez Gladine in the 13th, and we said that we should all go together the following weekend.

SO. The following weekend arrived and none of us wanted to go to Chez Gladine, so I sent the French Person a text saying that we weren't going to go, but we were all going out if he wanted to come. Then he rang me, which is where it all went terribly, terribly wrong...

I can't understand French and that is all there to it, but I can speak a little bit if I plan what I'm going to say and practice it. Luckily (or so I thought) I had been practicing a few phrases to say just in case such an occassion arose, so when French Person rang me I said something along the lines of 'Hello, me and my friends are going out tonight, you can come if you like.'

Now if he had saind something like 'Yes I want to' or 'No I don't want to' I reckon I would have been all right and I would no longer have to look back at the whole fiasco with such red-faced regret. But he said something that I wasn't expecting and I couldn't understand him. His tone of voice made me think he had said something more like a yes than a no, but I wasn't sure. Like an idiot, I pressed on with what I had practiced anyway.

I said I didn't know where we were going yet. Well, what I actually said was 'Je sais pas ou' which actually means more 'I don't know where it is'. He siad something in French that I didn't understand so I just kept on repeating the phrases I had learnt, like this Sesame Street phone I had when I was little; whatever you said into the plastic receiver, Count von Count would say 'I like counting to one, two three!'

He said a few more things in French and now I couldn't even gage what tone he was talking in. I just kept saying 'Je sais pas ou' 'Je sais pas ou' and then he said something like 'See you soon. A dim lightbulb flickered in my head and I realised he must have been saying he couldn't come but we could try and meet up another time, or something. That was fine and I went out that night without a care in the world. Kayt asked if I'd managed to get French Person and his mate that she quite fancied out and I said no but we would probably see them again...

Two days went past.

The weirdest thing I've found about learning French is that sometimes I will manage a whole conversation in French, but later I can only remember what I said in English, or sometimes I will not understand one word of French when somebody is speaking to me but later, even a day or two later, the whole thing will come to me suddenly, bursting in from some forgotten part of my subconscious...

Two days after the phone conversation, it hit me. I'm not even exaggerating now for dramatic purposes, but it was the middle of the night and I sat bolt up right in bed and I knew what he'd be saying. French Person had said, when I asked him if him and his friend fancied coming out, that he was sorry but he was going to a wedding. And then I'd said to him 'I don't know where it is.'

He will have thought that I thought he was inviting me to a wedding... when I have barely met him once. As comprehension dawned on me I felt so embarrassed. I'd just kept saying 'I don't know where it is, I don't know where it is' and he'd been like 'Erm, I would like to take you but you know it's a family wedding'.

It took me a few weeks to get over the embarrassment. Even though I don't know him and it's not like he was someone fit I met in a bar, he was my mum's friend's cousin's cousin, quite a few years older than me and not like that, I was still mortified by the fact that he would think I was an absolute Mental who thought he was inviting me to a wedding.

Anyway. Thankfully I can stop cringing now because it's been a few months and it's not like I'll ever see him again (because even though I am over the shame, I am still never, ever going to contact him never, ever again). But I REFUSE to ever speak to a French Person on the phone again.

Shit Au Pair on Holiday
I never finished writing about my holiday with the family! I never explained why I got really drunk and blacked out! Well, I think this post is long enough, so I will write about the holiday another day because, actually, I think it will be quite useful for any au pairs who are going on holiday with their 'host' families, so I will do a link to it in my Advice sections. (By the way I am hoping to update these soon as I know lots of new au pairs will be starting next month and they might need some help!)

Also, not to add another loose end, but I have a couple of Bombshells that I have decided to drop. There are actually quite a few things that have happened over the year that I haven't been able to write about because the people involved might be mad... BUT I'm so far away from Paris at the moment that I don't care the moment, so I'm going to divulge a couple of Au Pair secrets that might be shocking, especially to anyone who is reading this and actually has an au pair- ha!

Bombshell 1

One of my friends was working as an au pair by day and a stripper/lap dancer in the centre of Paris by night. She was living with the family and snuck out of the house everynight to go to work, then snuck back in the house in the mornings to take the kids to school, straight from work. She has since quit her nanny job and works full time as a stripper/lap dancer. She tells me that she earns, on a bad night, 350 euros and thousands on a good night.

(I'm not going to lie, I was very tempted by the money, but I'm really not lap dancer material- I can't touch my knees, never mind my toes and as for sexy underwear and 'upkeep', I doubt anyone would pay to see me writhe around in my 100% cotton, Marks and Spencers Girls Hipster Briefs.)

Bombshell 2

The second shocker really isn't my secret to tell as the au pair in question isn't even one of my friends (but I have met her a few times, this is not one of those friend-of-a-friend stories) but it's too good not to tell you. This au pair was having an affair with the dad of her 'host' family. YES I KNOW. Jilly Cooper couldn't write it any better- the girl was looking after the kids and the dad. Fucking Shocking.

So. People who get au pairs really do not have a clue who they are letting live in their house and looking after their kids...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Daddy Issues

I got up at half six this morning so I could find out what my brother got for his A Levels- how incredibly supportive and noble of me. He did really well and got the place he wanted at the uni he wanted. But while I am obviously very Happy and Pleased for my brother, I keep thinking of all the teens out there who got up this morning all excited and then discovered they hadn't got the right grades to go to university. Doesn't it break your heart?

I know it is ridiculous, but I can't stop thinking about all these poor Imaginary Underacheivers. I am actually crying a little bit now, thinking about how one of them has to tell her mum, and her mum is all excited and thinks her little girl is going to uni, but she hasn't got the right grades and all that hard work was for nothing, NOTHING and all her friends are going out celebrating tonight and her mum wants to take her out for a Congratulations Meal but in a minute or two she is going to have to break the news to her mum...

'Oh God, stop, stop!' I hear you cry, 'It's too much, it's TOO MUCH!! I CAN'T COPE WITH SUCH TRAGEDY!'

Ok, I'll stop. I must stop, or I will start crying again for all my Imaginary Underacheivers and their bitter disappointment. There is nothing worse than when someone is disappointed. I am so glad my brother got good grades- I would not have coped well with him being disappointed.

But he got what he wanted and he's going to the uni he wanted so it's all ok! I feel like I should give him some advice about Univeristy Life, but I'm not sure that I have any good advice to give on the subject- the only thing I learnt from my three years in Liverpool was how to put my hair in rollers.

My nana gave him some good advice though: "Don't do drugs, make lots of friends and don't get drunk. I worked in a pub for years and it put me off for life. I seen grown women shitting themselves..."

That is actually what she said. But then she also said "You don't know your luck 'til yer hat falls off." which I swear she has made up, but she insists that it is a Real Thing That People In Liverpool Say.

Me and my brother stayed in Liverpool for three days, which was just enough time to eat three roast dinners and to catch up with my friend Anna from uni and Amy, my friend from Paris. It was weird seeing Amy back in England, I kept expecting drunk, aggressive French men to jump out as us from behind the purple wheely bins. (They didn't.) Amy still hasn't found a job in Liverpool and in a really selfish way I hope she doesn't, because she said that if she hasn't got a job by Christmas she'll come back to Paris!

It was nice to see my little scouse brothers, but the youngest one didn't recognise me at first- he said "Herro! Who you?"

Bad Sister.

It's funny, because now I've worked as an au pair for a year, my brain kept slipping back into Childcare Mode and, after the relatively strict parenting of Paris, I was a little bit shocked that my little brothers were still awake past midnight, eating biscuits and watching very unsuitable things on the TV. At one point my dad came in all smiley and said "I just did some fire breathing for Conan* and he loved it!"

So basically Conan, who has just turned three, saw my dad apparently drinking lighter fluid, setting a stick on fire, then holding the burning stick close to his face, then spitting on the fire and breathing like a dragon, and all this without getting harmed... I might be Shit Au Pair but even I know that this isn't a very good example to set for your toddler.

My dad wanted me to have a go at 'fire breathing' and I was very tempted... There was a point at uni when I was convinced I was going to get really good at it and perform at festivals. I asked my dad to teach me but then one day I realised that if I started gargling with lighter fluid and spitting at fire very close to my face; I might not burn my face off, but I would definitely be increasing the probability.

So. I stayed away from the fire. After all, it's IBIZA in ten days, and I can't sunbathe with no skin.

I asked my dad what he thought about the recent 'riots' and he agreed that they were rubbish. He went on and on about the original Toxteth riots:

"We burnt down the club where all the magistrates went..."

He went on and on about how back then they had a cause because all the police in Liverpool were bent. I kept quiet during this little speech because I know for a fact that when the Toxteth Riots kicked off, he was on a camping trip, in Devon.

I know this because once, someone who found out how who my dad was, went "He's a legend blah blah I heard he started the Toxteth riots". I told my dad and obviously he was Well Chuffed. I told my mum and she burst out laughing and told me about the camping trip. She said him and his dodgy mate went to Devon and killed a sheep and ate it.

Does anyone else's dad kill sheep and set fire to their breath?

I don't know why I have gone on and on about my dad. Perhaps I have 'daddy issues', although doesn't that normally apply to rich girls who feel abandoned by their dads because they spent half their childhoods on a yaht in the Bahamas?

Anyway, my dad is questonable but my mum's all right: today we walked into that buzzy cosmopolitan New Mills and there is a Boots and a 'coffee shop' run by Christians that does nice cake so I guess it's all not bad.

I can't believe there is only ten days left until Ibiza! I am obvioulsy very, very excited, but I am also a bit sad because it means going back to Paris and I am a bit nervous about the job now... I forsee many blog posts with the words 'Shit Au Pair' in them...

*My brother's name is not Conan; but I am trying to keep my Top Secret Identity a secret and Conan is one of the excellent names that my dad suggested and thankfully had rejected.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

What Does Paris Think of the London Riots?

I would love to be in Paris right now so I could find out what the banlieu kids think of the London riots... I know I come across as having the political views of a limpet, but I've just seen something frightfully interesting on The Guardian website and I thought I'd share it- their Paris correspondant Kim Willsher lets us know how Parisiens are feeling about all these 'riots':

Paris is no stranger to rioting youngsters, and burning cars is so much a new year and high holiday tradition, that is passes almost unreported. But the rioting in London and other parts of Britain made the front-page headlines in most of the French newspapers.

The coverage was mostly news reporting of events, but the Monday edition of Le Monde carried the headline: "Riots in London: the British press dramatises and tries to understand."

Most surprising were readers' responses to the upmarket and respected newspaper's report, which varied from echoes of the paper's leftwing, anti-market, anti-capitalist line, to outright Schadenfreude and xenophobic anti-English sentiment...

...Jean Baptiste Clamence wrote: "There exists in England an underclass that does not exist anywhere else in Europe. White, little educated, without any means of social evolution, they are a perfect example of the results of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and its dehumanising program. The English perversion is to make this population proud of their misery and their ignorance. The situation is hopeless. I've more hope for the youth of our banlieues."

So there you go- seems like most of Paris think we are idiots then.

I agree that the press is dramatising everything: I know they have to report the news, but by showing 'live feeds' they are just showing people where the looting is going on, unpoliced, thus accelerating the situation as people sitting at home, looking at their shit trainers, realise there is a JJB being looted round the corner, with little chance of anyone getting caught.

The irony is, that compared with the banlieues of Paris, the areas affected aren't even that grim; they are hardly destitute, hopeless ghettos... But now that everything has been ransacked and burnt to the ground; they probably will look like destitute, hopeless ghettos. And the sad thing is that the looters will probably love this, being 'proud of their misery and their ignorance' (although I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the looters have come in from nicer, middle class areas, desperate to get in on the action).

If the riots continue to spread it will turn Britain into an apocalyptic wasteland, run by gobby kids with baseball bats.

Oh my God.

Who will fly my plane to Ibiza??

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Greetings From...

... The Arse End of Nowhere.

New Mills really is the middle of nowhere. I know that normally I keep my whereabouts Top Secret as I am rather paranoid about stalkers finding me and licking my knee caps (probably after they have removed them from my body), but at the moment I would quite like a murderous stalker to break in and drag me into their van, anything to get me out of this place.

I suppose I have only been here for two and a half days, but that has been more than enough time to discover that New Mills is miles and miles away from Manchester. I think it's in the Peak District, or Derbyshire. Does that make me a Derby Girl? Are Derby and Derbyshire the same place?

Oh dear, I don't even know where I live. If I don't know where I live how will I ever get away from it, and into Manchester, and into a bar?

I thought that by now I would have had emotional reunions with all of my friends, involving lots of alcohol, in the centre of Manchester, but alas I have only just had my first visitor tonight. Trusty Lauren has been the first one to see the new 'house' (it's actually a bungalow), she managed to get the train here somehow and my mum had to walk me to the station to meet her. When we were got there Lauren said: "I see you are well suited to living in the countryside" because my eyes were all swollen up from hayfever and from the cat (to be fair I have rubbed him on my face a lot) and my eye balls have turned into a watery jelly-like substance. I won't be surprised if I wake up and they have spilled out of my head- that is what the countryside does to you.

There are cows at the bottom of our garden. And there is a bull who makes a lot of noise and paws the ground like he is getting ready to charge over the stone wall and through my bedroom window. Cows can kill people. That is not something I have made up, that is a Real Thing.

This morning I had to get out of bed and sleep on the couch because there was a fly that kept hovering above my ear going BZZZZ BZZZ BZZZZ and I was still half-asleep and I kept dreaming I got out of bed and killed it and then I would wake up to it going BZZZZ BZZZZ BZZZZ. There are flies all over the house. There is a roll of sticky stuff hanging from the kitchen ceiling and there are about thirty dead flies stuck to it.

There is an outside toilet. Ok, so there is an inside toilet as well but it doesn't have a lock. There is a little quilted love heart hanging to the door knob outside and on one side it says 'Engaged' and on the other it says 'Vacant'. Everybody keeps laughing at me because when I go in the toilet I make a big show of flipping it on to the 'Engaged' side. Their laughter makes me uncomfortable, as if in my absence they have become one of those Freaky 'lets-all-watch-each-other-wee-or-worse' Families.

Well I want no part of it- the 'Engaged' quilted heart will not be made a mockery of!

Oh I know I'm being disgustingly spoilt and ungrateful, some people live in a bin in the backyard of a brothel, but I'm just in shock- I didn't think they were moving to the actual countryside.

But they have, and it looks like I will never find my way out again.

But it's not all bad- my mum said that if I can tidy my room up and keep it tidy for four days I can have a sleepover!

Yes, she ACUALLY said that.

I should tell her that I haven't lived at home for four years and that in Paris I could be having sleepovers with four dwarves and a shaman for all she knows, and they wouldn't be bothered if my room was tidy or not, but I actually really want to have a sleepover so I might just keep that to myself. Keep my head down and make the most of the unlimited supply of tea and snide bounties ('We're on an economy drive, they're just as good as the brand ones' my mum reassured me... not a good time to ask to borrow some money then so I can make the minimum payment on my credit card, that I haven't paid for three months... OOPS).

Still, it's lovely to be back in England. The whole Eurostar journey I had a big smile on my face. A few weeks ago I moaned on here that I had nobody to see me off and nobody to meet me at the other end, but as it happened I had Georgie and her lovely French friend see me off at Gare du Nord and Kat met me at St Pancras and she had glittery silver stars under her eyes. We got the tube to Rachel's at Brixton and we laughed at everything in the way that only Irritating Drama Students Who Laugh At Their Own Jokes can.

I was supposed to be going to London again this weekend but the tragic fact is, I have no money in the whole world, and anyway I'm pretty sure I will never figure out how to get to the train station so it's probably a good job I didn't buy any train tickets.

It looks like it's going to be a long, slow summer, which is partly why I have decided to keep my blog up from England. The other reason is that I want to finish talking about my holiday with the family, but I will do that tomorrow.

Good night, from England, at last!