Monday, 23 July 2012

Besides the Seaside: Part 1

Ok, so it's now been two weeks since me and Olivia went on holiday by mistake with the au pair family and I still haven't told you about it. As penance, I'm now going to spend the afternoon cooped up in my room blogging, even though it's a beautiful, sunny day outside. I hope I have time to tell you about this weekend just gone as well, but we'll see.

So, two Fridays ago, me and Olivia drove to the country with the au pair family. I had no idea how the weekend was going to pan out- I couldn't imagine Olivia meeting my au pair family and I didn't know if it was going to be really awkward between me and the parents, as I've never spent that much time alone with them before.

Originally the mum told me to tell Olivia to come at 2pm, then she changed her mind and said 3pm, then she said the dad was going to be late home and to tell Olivia 3.30pm...

The dad came home at about 3pm and I could hear them arguing in the kitchen, I think the mum was annoyed that he'd made her postpone our leaving time for No Reason. Then Olivia was running a little bit late and the mum and dad made me feel really nervous. They kept talking amongst themselves in French- in low, serious tones- so I asked Olivia what metro stop she was at and she was about seven stops away. Seven stops on the Paris metro is nothing, but when I told the dad where Olivia was, he acted like I'd just told him she was scrabbling down the cliffs of Dover.

"If she's not here on time," he said, "We're leaving without her."

Secretly I thought that if it came down to it, I would refuse to go out of solidarity. After all, they were the ones that kept telling Olivia to come later and later- she'd been ready since 2pm.

I looked at the dad without smiling and said:
"Well you told her half three and it's not half three yet."

The dad looked surprised and told me he was joking. Oops. I felt like a bitch.

But then he whispered, in all seriousness: "I will wait, but I don't know if my wife will."

In the end, Olivia was barely ten minutes late which by my standards, is Bang On Time. I introduced her to the parents and they said a quick hello as they loaded our bags into the boot... Erm, don't bother introducing yourselves or anything.

I could tell Olivia was surprised at the less than enthusiastic welcome (I guess that after working with them for eleven months, I'm used to them being a bit cold and stand-offish and it doesn't bother me anymore) and as we piled into the back of the car with the toddler, she whispered into my ear:

"On a scale of one to ten, how awkward is this going to be?"

"Nine." I muttered, adjusting my seat belt.

We set off and were soon saying goodbye to the banlieues, hitting the motorway and racing away from Paris... I didn't really know exactly where we going- I was imagining green fields and ancient woodlands and a huge, sprawling farmhouse, sitting in an enclosed semi-circles alongside barns and coal sheds and maybe a couple of small cottages.

(I knew that me and Olivia wouldn't be staying in the 'main house' so I assumed we'd be sleeping in a little purpose-built chambre de bonne, perhaps a short walk across the dusty farmyard. I was really hoping we wouldn't be sleeping in a coal shed, but as the 'au pair' you've got to expect the worst.)

Me and Olivia were excited to get away from Paris. I've always been a city girl, but I forget that when I lived in England, I would get into the countryside about once every couple of months, even if it was just to Lyme Park for a walk*. I haven't left Paris in about six months and until we were driving past endless fields of cows and horses, I didn't realise how much I was longing for a change of scenery.

(I have to say, however, that the French countryside between Paris and Normandy is fucking boring as sin.)

Me and Olivia chatted to each other and to the toddler (who was supposed to be sleeping but just kept staring at Olivia because she was a New Person and he was fascinated) and the mum and dad chatted to each other in the front. It wasn't that awkward because the dad had music on, but it was a little bit strange. I was wondering what the hell it would have been like if Olivia hadn't been there- would I have been expected to make conversation with the parents, or could I have just looked out of the window in silence without it being awkward?

Anyway, after a while me and Olivia closed our eyes to have a little nap. I slept for about half an hour I reckon, before I woke up and wanted to look out of the window again. But when I woke up, the dad was singing along to his iPod really, really loudly, so I just pretended to be asleep. He was going:

"I don't KNOOOOW you, but I WAAAANT you.
All the more for that.
Words fall THROOOOUGH me
and always FOOOOL me
and I can't react..."

(I was thinking what a weird song, I wonder who sings it, but since returning to Paris it I've Googled the lyrics and it's a song called 'Falling Slowly' by a band called The Frames. I actually quite like it.)

I kept my eyes really tightly shut, but then Olivia started nudging my foot with hers and I knew she was pretending to be asleep as well and I had to try really hard not to laugh. I could hear the mum scolding the dad, telling him that we weren't really asleep and that he was being embarrassing! Then the toddler suddenly grabbed my hair, so I jumped up and opened my eyes.

I swear I heard the mum say "You see?"

Awkward.

Once me and Olivia stopped pretending to be alseep, the mum and dad started talking to us because we were arriving in the little town where their country house is. I wasn't expecting a town. It's a proper little seaside town, with fishing boats and cobbled streets and the sound of seagulls in the air.

The mum and dad even made a little joke with us just before we got into the town, pointing to a leather warehouse and telling is that was where we were staying, then pointing to a straggly bit of river and telling us that was the sea. Me and Olivia joined the joke and were like 'Oh oh, looks lovely, we'll be swimming in that, can't wait' etc. The mum and dad just went silent.

Too far, guys, too far.

As we drove through the little town, that acoustic version of 'Ayo Technology' came on and the dad started singing along again. Just as I was about to look at Olivia and snigger because the lyrics are really dirty, the dad stopped singing and said:

"This is a sexy song, girls. Have you heard the words?"

We agreed with him and the dad mentioned how his two daughters listen to it and don't understand the lyrics, so I told him how the eight year old had been listening to it the other day and I'd been embarrassed when she was singing "Why don't you sit on top of me?"

"Yeah, yeah," the dad laughed, "Wait, wait though, this is my favourite part, it's really rude, wait, wait..."

It was the bit where the singer just makes sex grunts and the dad joined in with them.

Didn't see that one coming...





FUCKING HELL JUST DELETED A HUGE MASSIVE PARAGRAPH BY ACCIDENT.

Fuck's sake.

Right. Deep breath.... here we go again.

We pulled up outside the 'country house', only it isn't a 'country house' at all... It's right on the seafront and while it is very impressive- it has turrets with pointy roofs and parts of the facade are striped with black and white, like Tudor houses in England- the family don't own the whole thing. As far as I can tell, the mum's grandma (who is a millionaire) owns a few apartments in the house, which everyone in the family uses when they want. I'm not sure though, because the mum's stepsister was there and I thought she was from the other side of the family, so I don't really know. I don't really care either, the point is the house is Amazing. People on the beach stop and take photos of it, because apparently it's very typical of Normandy architecture. I would put a photo up but I really can't... I have some bad news. Potentially terrible news.

There is the teensiest possibility that the dad of the au pair family knows about my blog... but I'll tell you about that when I come to it.

The first evening we arrived, the dad showed me and Olivia where we would be staying- it's in a completely different building a couple of blocks away from the Seafront House, in a modern block of holiday apartments. (Weirdly, the building is called 'Children's Corner'.) It's kind of like a chambre de bonne, except it has a corridor with a separate bathroom and a separate toilet. It's a lot bigger than I was expecting, the main room is like a living room with a kitchenette and a folding-out dining table, then the sofa turns into two single beds.

Anyway, the dad gave us the keys and told us we could 'faire pipi', then we had to meet him in front of the Seafront House to pick up the toddler. Up until this point, I had no idea what hours I would be expected to work. The mum and dad said they were going food shopping and told me to just play with the toddler on the beach until they got back. About one and a half hours later, they came back and said I was finished for the night. The mum told us that there was going to be fireworks at the beach that night and she told us to be careful.

"There are bad men on the beach," she said in English, "Who have fires and get drunk, please be careful and please don't drink too much."

(I have to admit my eyes lit up when she talked about the bad men with fires, getting drunk.)

"Did you say don't drink?" the dad asked, "Because English people have to drink."

"I said don't drink too much." the mum said.

She looked generally worried which was quite nice, as normally I get the feeling they wouldn't be arsed if I someone broke into my room and then raped and murdered me; just slightly miffed that now they had to find a new au pair and clean my blood up.


I'd assumed that the weekend would cost me nothing, that me and Olivia would just hang out on the beach and cook in the room, but of course... I was wrong. I was so wrong it makes me feel sick thinking about it. The really sad thing is that now I don't think I can afford to go to Ibiza, but more on that later...

We were so hungry that instead of going to Monoprix to buy food, we went to a restaurant and had oysters then I had white fish cooked in cider (I can't remember what Olivia had). Obviously we bought a bottle of wine.

The thing is, I don't regret it because we had a lovely weekend. AND I've been working three jobs so I can enjoy myself, ok? So leave me alone.

After our meal, we discovered that Monoprix was closed, so we just went home. Olivia had brought a HUGE bottle of rose wine with her that she got given at work, so we drank some of that and then went to watch the fireworks. It was pouring down with rain and it was freezing.

Shit going to be late for work, will blog more later!

*By 'a walk' I mean we would walk from the car to the National Trust cafe for tea and cake.

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