To anyone who clicked on my facebook link: it really doesn’t,  but it’s still worth a read now that you’re here.

Anyhoo I would like to begin this post by briefly commenting on the stories which have landed that naughty minx Sarkozy in the news this week; firstly he raised the retirement age to sixty-two; then, the swine, he started deporting gypsies. On the issue of the retirement age, officially, as a combination of moderate liberal and fair-weather Marxist revolutionary, I am against it, but the outrage which followed the decision did somewhat cement my view that French service industry workers forget that they are actually paid for their jobs, and that they chose to do those jobs in the first place. The way they reacted was as if they were slaves who thought that they were free to return to their slums only to be told by the Pharaoh that they had to build another pyramid before bed time. I just think that there are worse things happening in the world

One of these is the deportation of the ‘Roma’ people (Gypsies) which threatened to cause a diplomatic crisis between France and Romania and caused Sarko to go in a wee huff when the EU backed the Romanians. The reason I think the deportation is harsh is that the Roma are not that much of a drain on the French economy; I accept that they can be a nuisance; they beg and shoplift a bit, but this alone is not justification for deporting them in large numbers. If it was then by rights every thirteen year-old boy from the school near my halls should also be packed off to Romania. The truth is that the Roma are an easy scape goat – on a purely empirical level the group near where I live look like the bad guys from ‘Mad Max’ – but this is not a crime which merits deportation.

Preechy, whiney, Bono-esque rant over I actually had a pretty good week. Class does not start until today which I cannot honestly say I am thrilled about. I start with Modern French History which should be interesting. The only slight snag is that classes here can be as long as four hours, which will be difficult for the boy who last year found a drawing of a helicopter in the place of the valuable notes I thought I had taken…and that class was only an hour long. This will be followed by a healthy dose of seventeenth century literature, which should prove an excellent cure to my sleep deprivation.

Elsewhere during my last week of freedom my flatmates and I took a trip to a ‘Maison du vin’ (an Amy) which in itself was not that interesting, a bit like visiting an alcoholic with OCD, but I did make the potentially important discovery that desert wine is actually nice and lookes just like real white wine to the untrained eye. Looking sophisticated need never be so complicated again.

We made another brave attempt at a night out on Friday, aided in no small part by the new addition to our Erasmus family: the biggest party animal in the universe (known by day as Barbara from the Czech Republic) who insisted that we drank a bottle of wine on the walk to dinner. Dinner was organised by an Irish couple who run one of the cafes in town and, apart form being the nicest people in the world, they share our adversity to actually speaking French, which made it pretty much the ultimate Albi dining experience. After the meal we found another ‘night club’ which seemed more like a front for the mafia to launder money, but which piped out tunes and (albeit expensive) drinks as a club should.

On Saturday we watched SC Albi play rugby, a new experience for all involved apart from myself and one which everyone enjoyed. There is a distinct carnival atmosphere to French rugby compared to my usual haunt of Murrayfield, where the crowd sometimes give the impression that they are attending the funeral of someone that they did not much care for. There were foghorns, songs mocking the opposition, a mascot dressed as a bee (the AlBee?) and cheerleaders whose knee length black boots and black uniforms made them look like a cheerful band of dominatrix (who couldn’t really dance). To top it all off Albi won comfortably to stay top of the league, so it was a quality experience all round.

Yesterday I took my new bike out for a spin with my Finnish flatmate forgetting that he is like a cross between ‘action man’ and a Scandinavian Barack Obama. The result was that he would stop to take photographs of the landscape every fifteen minutes to give me a chance to hyperventilate. After a twenty-five kilometre cycle up into the Tarn Valley mountains, over the river and across some thankfully flat paths home I was ready to hobble to bed.

I should probably go and find out where my class is now.



Categories: Albi, France

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