Archive | June, 2012

Mouton’s Not-So-Triumphant Return

24 Jun

Travel. A nerve wrecking experience merely because so many things can go wrong. First there’s the packing when you realise just how much crap you own. Then the tickets, the passports, the travel cards, the easily accessible bottle of water, the list goes on.

This time I didn’t leave things to the last minute. I started packing two days in advance, oh yes! I checked out of LP with minimal stress. The caretaker came to inspect my room, walked in, asked “So, any problems?”, “No,” I replied thinking of the wobbly chair, broken cupboard and the shower that doesn’t drain properly, “none at all”. Case closed.

I traversed Paris, boarded the Eurostar and settled down. The train manager Guy announced that he “and his friend Jean-Pierre” would be patrolling the aisles, which made me smile. It’s something my mother and I noticed a few years back: no matter how many times you take the train, you will invariably spot the manager but never his “friend Jean-Pierre”. Therefore the only logical conclusion is that all Eurostar managers have imaginary friends to keep them company on the journey. I then fell asleep, as I always do on Eurostar. It’s the air con: drugged I’m sure of it.

Arriving back in London, despite being weighed down with 4 bags, I enjoyed listening to people speaking English. English! In informal situations! Magic! It wasn’t Shakespeare I’ll admit it, the best line came from an angry man in a suit who shouted down the phone: “Tell Sam when he comes down he can help us fix up the shed. No, f**k chickens I want a jacuzzi!”

So with a little help from my friends, a big dose of divine intervention, a sprinkling of common sense and a dash of experience I made it onto the 7.50 train from Paddington. Approaching Maidenhead I decided to call my mother to remind her to put on her driving shoes and get ready to pick me up from the station. The conversation went a bit like this:

“Hi Mum!”

“Hellooo!?” (surprised and confused tone)

“Yes, hi Mum. Just to let you know I’m at Maidenhead right now”

(Pause)

“What? In France?”

“Ummm… no. England.” (I mean really! How many places called Maidenhead can there be in France? I don’t even know how you would pronounce that in French!)

“Wait, you’re in England? But you’re supposed to be coming home tomorrow!”

For a split second I panicked. “I’ve got the wrong date!” I thought, “I’ll have to go back to Paris! Wait, hang on… Eurostar would never have let me travel a day early. Breathe, Mouton, breathe.”

“Uh no… I’m pretty sure I’m coming home today”

“Really? Oh sorry darling I’ve been ill, completely lost track of time! Twins! D’you hear this? Your sister is coming back early!”

(Muffled voice of younger brother from the background) “Whaaaaa??”

“Well it’s not exactly early is it…” I started to say, but was interrupted.

“So you’re on Eurostar then?”

“No Mum! I’m at Maidenhead! I’ll be arriving in 25 minutes, get your shoes on and come find me!”

“Yes of course darling, what a wonderful surprise! See you soon!”

“Bye Mum.”

Hangs up.

Surprise. Hmmmphh. Four months I’ve been away. Train tickets been booked for a month and a half. Good thing I called ahead really. So not exactly the long awaited return I was hoping for, but it’s good to know nothing’s changed around here.

Got home, made some real tea with the proper milk and water, plugged in my computer and the sockets had the right number of holes, ate a good British pork sausage roll and settled down to the latest episode of Silk on BBC 1. Whoever said the grass isn’t greener on the other side has clearly never made the Channel crossing.

Mouton and her Male Sheep Friends

24 Jun

Dating. A word that strikes fear into many a heart and gives me personally the impulse to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction, buy a horsehair tunic, grow a beard somehow and set up a whole new existence as a hermit monk in the Scottish highlands. But as someone who refuses to be beaten by anything (hence the decision to come and study in Paris of all places), I have attempted, admittedly whilst I’m meant to be revising, to rise to this particular challenge. And what a challenge it has been.

As you may have guessed, I am quite new to the dating scene and also suffer from the bus syndrome: you wait forever for a bus and three come along at the same time. Well, it’s the same thing with guys and the problem is I am quite a picky person at the best of times. So this leaves me making an insane amount of pros and cons lists.

Punctuality does not bother me; the shortest time I’ve waited for a date is probably 20mins. Funny how when it comes to conferences or “tutorials”, arriving two minutes late is an offense equivalent to publically declaring yourself a Sarkozy supporter. But when it comes to meeting for drinks, a half hour delay is perfectly acceptable. Logic level: French men.

But despite being on edge during most of any date there are certain little things that I find extremely difficult to let slide. For example, violation of the “the one you touch is the one you take” rule while eating the café’s provided bowl of chips.  Answering the phone when in the cinema: unforgivable. I don’t care if it’s Barack Obama, the Pope or Michael Jackson calling from beyond the grave, you just don’t do it! Oh and ordering for me, which is only allowed if you’re paying! Trivial issues yes, but annoying nonetheless.

I’m getting better at chit chat en français, although it still seems a little odd and artificial to me. I keep thinking “I barely know you! Why am I telling you all this random stuff?”. There are those unforgettable moments though, when a certain question provokes an unexpected response. For example half way through one date’s explanation of his role as director of a real estate firm I stopped him with “Wait… how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?” and he replied “Thirty one”. CHICKA-ZOOONT-ZOONT-ZOONT!!

Shame really. He had an unbelievable car.

So not much luck in Paris, the city of love, so far. I still walk past that bridge near the Louvre, the one with all the lovers padlocks attached to it, and picture myself breaking them all with a wrench and chucking them into the Seine. But no matter, I’m sure there’s a ram out there somewhere waiting to sweep this mouton of her feet. Eww… that sounded wrong. Or perhaps I’ll just spend a few more years happily grazing and frolicking around on my metaphorical Scottish hillside!