Within a couple of days of my arrival in France a mouse was killed at the end of the road on which I live. Nobody has bothered to move it (partly because it is a dead mouse and it is disgusting, partly because this is France and rodent funeral direction does not fall under anybody’s specific job description and therefore does not get done). Anyway, the fact that this mouse was left on the pavement means that I have watched it gradually decompose over the last month. And, when stopping to remember the wee, sleekit, cowrin’, dead, mingin’ beastie (copyright R.Burns and G.Cubie) in those early days, I associate it with the sense of dread and the nagging feeling that I was completely out of my depth which I could not escape at that time. As the first month of my stay has passed, everytime I have walked passed slightly less dead mouse I have felt slightly less terrified by this experience. All that is left of the mouse now is a tiny patch of matted fur. What this is basically a very convoluted way of saying is that I am starting to feel at ease in Albi and accordingly have fallen into a routine.
My classes are still mildly interesting and, though I am not exactly the star pupil, none of my nightmares about being called a fraud that cannot speak French and banished from the room have come true, which pleases me. Another thing which is making classes easier is that my social skills in French are getting better which means I now have French friends from whom I can borrow notes (at this exact second I have just remembered that I have still to return these notes. What a plank.) which should make the looming spectre of exams at the end of term slightly easier to tackle, but that’s a long way off.
One thing to remember about th Erasmus year is that foreign students are not treated so much like dignitaries as illegal immigrants and therefore in order to be accepted into normal social circles, one has to worm their way in like a termite chewing through a treetrunk. I feel like, three weeks into term, we have finally managed this as an Erasmus group by doing extra-curricular activities and going to the right student haunts, as well as my usual friend making tactics of coersion and blackmail, although all my new found friends will probably abandon me when I return their notes a week later than I said I would.
This week in our quest to boost our number of facebook friends we went to a party at the hall of residence on campus which, on the surface was very civilised compared to the parties at halls at home – everybody brought food as well as drink, and their drunken dancing was surprisingly well choreographed- however, students being students, most people focused on the drink and the place ended up looking like a mixture of ‘Come dine with me’ and ‘Jersey Shore’. As much as I would have loved to have stayed until the five o’clock conclusion of festivities, I had six hours of class the next day starting at half past eight.
After that hard day of class I went on my first field trip, to see a play as part of my theatre class. The class involves mostly all the clever clogs French playwrights and their position in the world of theatre, but on Thursday we went to see a play by the fellow with the cleverest clogs of them all (except perhaps the Dutch, although I’ve often wondered if the clog market in the Netherlands was decimated by the invention of ‘Crocks’? Anyway I digress), IT WAS ONLY BLOODY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE! (Soon to be known as ‘the Gregor Cubie of his generation’) – or so I thought. According to the ticket we were going to see the French version of ‘Much ado about nothing’ (Beaucoup de bruit pour rien), but it turned out this was just a cunning trick on the audience and that the play was actually about a theatre troupe trying to put on the Shakespeare play only to encounter all kinds of complications. It was actually very funny and took me ages to work out that everything going wrong was part of the actual play and that the homeless guy, who insisted on playing his guitar along with every scene, was an actor as well.
On Friday after another decent meal at our regular haunt I received some bad news. Scotland had lost to the Czech Republic at football, seemingly in the most cowardly and dishonourable of manners. I would have been able to grieve silently for my once great nation, if it was not for the hometown of my flatmate. ONLY BLOODY PRAGUE! Despite being the least interested person in football in the entire world, she managed to give me a slagging off when I ran into her, which put me in an excellent mood.
One sports team which has still to let me down is the Albi rugby club, who recorded their sixth straight victory on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the French second division. We cemented our position as die hard Albigeois afterwards by buying merchandise from the club shop, which will hopefully ingratiate us even further with our classmates.
I have plenty to look forward to this coming week as the Cubie family will be storming the beaches on Monday (my parents’ wedding anniversary is actually on D-day incase you were in any doubt how bloody clever that reference was!). Ironically however, it has just started raining for the second time since I arrived, so it will be funny to see how they react when they step off the plane thinking they have escaped the weather back home.
Right I need to unblock my sink…or maybe just wash my dishes in the bath until somebody else fixes it.