This week things in Albi were shaken up a bit by the arrival of my family, who always put their own unique spin on the conventional holiday. My brother proved that this time would be no different by saying that he liked the cathedral because it reminded him of a real life version of ‘Assassins Creed’ (that’s right, the computer game) and spent the rest of the week lamenting the fact that he could not swoop from the top of it and stab someone in the back of the head. Although I never took his rambling seiously, I did get slightly worried when he kept commenting on how good the knives in restaurants would be to stab somebody, then revealed that he had planned an escape route after his first murder.
Some of my own latent homocidal rage was awakened on Tuesday during my first rugby game of the season. The reason for this was simply that some of my team mates cannot play rugby. Discipline in French sport does not seem to have any place next to blind, headless chickenish enthusiasm. This, combined with my lack of ability to express quite what my problem was in French (they have no phrase for ‘headless chickenish’), led to me have little fits like a rabid alley cat whenever something went wrong, which in turn led to the coach substituting me to ‘calm down a bit’. The overall experience was actually pretty amusing; I scored the team’s first try of the season and got my shirt ripped off at one point when someone attempted to tackle me, leaving me wearing only the collar of the hundred year old rugby top. It felt a bit like the first game in an underdog sports movie which they use to show how bad the team is; funny but at times difficult even to watch. This is going to be an interesting season.
On Wednesday the family and I visited Toulouse on what was mainly a shopping trip. Here, my sister, the resident expert in having fun in shopping centres where there is nothing to do, introduced me to an interesteing past time. She sat in a seat facing the entrance to the ‘New Look’ and watched all the youths being ejected on suspicion of shoplifting. It is more fun than it sounds to watch a thirteen year-old French boy in a full football tracksuit do laps of a shopping centre looking for somewhere to rob, only to look shocked an indignant when he is asked to leave every shop.
I assure you now that Toulouse is a nice place and not some kind of civilisation of kleptomaniacs, but we had another bizarre experience in a playpark when a girl who could barely walk tottered over to my sister and proceeded to expertly remove the bracelets from her wrist. I would have thought nothing of it had the child’s mother not been egging her on from the other side of the playpark between dancing like a lunitic to the reggae music on her mobile phone, before saying something to the infant which sounded like ‘why do you want it, it’s just plastic?’. Perhaps I have been turned cynical by the Montpellier fiasco, but this combination of events gave me the strange impression that I had just witnessed the French version of Fagan training the Artful Dodger. Child thieves aside Toulouse is a veritable Metropolis compared to sleepy little Albi and well worth a visit.
On Thursday it was winter. The weather changed so quickly and drastically it was like Storm from ‘X-Men’ was having her time of the month (REALLY FUCKING MASSIVE GEEK ALERT), but fortunately this coincided with the most interesting lesson I have had yet; the part of my brain that is still in primary school was just happy that we got to watch a film in class, but the more intellectually curious part of me was equally happy that the film was actually interesting. ‘Carnet de voyage’ (English ‘Motorcycle Diaries’) documents the travels of Ernesto Guevara which, apart from being the last time anyone went on a gap year without chundering everywhere, shaped the young man’s view that the only way to stop the poverty and inequality gripping the world was an armed revolution. As well as depicting one of the most important political figures of the second half of the twentieth century, the film is a work of art with some wonderful scenes and which, unlike most true stories, does not simply shove facts down the viewer’s throat. It is probably the most interesting thing I have studied at university so far.
On Thursday night a group of us went to a gig just across the river in what is jokingly referred to as ‘the scummy part of Albi’. Or so I thought. The setting for the gig was a bit like the school disco in the ‘Inbetweeners’ except instead of school pupils it was filled with stoned, swaying punks. If this image was not bizarre enough, the bands did not help me shake the feeling that there was LSD or something similar in the beer. The opening act were just an indie band with average jangly guitar songs, except the singer had the highest voice I have ever heard (classic rock fans think ‘The Pixies’ or ‘Rush’ if either of their singers recieved a swift boot to the babymaker) and they were wearing masks in the style of an eighteenth centuary masquerade ball. The second band were weirder if anything; they were a nu metal band fronted by a singer who occassionally turned into ‘Shaggy’. If the frontman’s desire to be Jamaican was not sufficiently entertaining, they introduced a WWE style wrestling match into the equation half way through, letting a guy in a Luchador mask and a big fat hairy bloke fight it out while two cheerleaders pranced around on stage…while the band kept playing. It was possibly the closest my brain has come to short-circuiting, because it refused to process what my eyes were seeing. The third band were what I would describe as Reggae Dubstep (if that’s a thing). After listening to the crunk beats which emerged mysteriously from the cloud of weed smoke that engulfed the stage for a while, my brother and I decided to beat the rush and walk home, only to discover I did not know the way, so we decided to do what any two sensible, well-educated young men would do in this situation and walk along the train tracks. Despite several peoples’ assertion that we were ‘a pair of complete morons’ (Copyright Andrew M Cubie), I maintain that the only way to see Albi is from the railbridge at one o’clock in the morning.
Friday was centred around a bum-numbingly boring French as a foreign language class before on Saturday, my family’s last day here, we went to show our support for the Scotland rugby league team, who were playing against France at the local stadium. Many people at this point will be asking if Scotland have a rugby league team. The answer is ‘not really’, but the thirteen Australians with Scottish grannies put up a very brave fight against a far superior French outfit before succumbing 26-12. This was a respectable performance by Scotland and we feel they were spurred on by our singing of the Fratellis and the old man, the only other Scottish fan in the whole crowd, who kept calling them ‘numpties’.
An eventful week then, which I think has earned me the right no to move from my bed for the rest of the day.