Just another week on the dodgy spinning teacup ride that is the Erasmus exchange programme.

Until Tuesday evening I did nothing of note except go to my classes like a good boy. Then I had a bit of a combative,William Wallace, no surrender, Scotsman attack on the rugby pitch. We were playing against what I suspect was a team of children which means that the aggressor was around the age of seventeen, but he made the rather foolish decision of getting into a battle of petty cheating with me  – a Frenchman trying to play dirty at a sport against a Scotsman is like a goldfish trying to eat a piranha. The end result was that I was sin-binned for the first time in my 12 year rugby career. Things only got worse when I came back on to exercise brutal revenge on the opposition like some killer in a slasher film – a particularly brutal attempt at a tackle leading to what I suspect is a broken nose.

I spent the whole of Wednesday writing an essay for my literature class. As an Erasmus student it is easy to forget that at some point you will be given work to do, so actually having to sit down and write some rubbish about how a rock was a metaphor for slavery being inhumane was something of a culture shock. After I had limped to the end of the assignment, feeling a bit like my brain was Audley Harrison and the passage I was analysing was David Haye, I felt the urge to make the most of my vast swells of free time, which meant going to the gym and then getting drunk.

Not to blow my own trumpet but I enjoyed overwhelming success in both of these endeavours. In the gym, and in no way am I blowing this out of proportion, I saved my friend Jussi form certain death. He was carrying an Olympic bar on his shoulders and tripped over a bench onto his front which meant that the weight was pinning him to the ground by his neck. Needless to say, our hero (me) rushed to his aid to pick the weight up with one finger and toss it away before saying ‘stay in school kids’ and flying away. This was a particularly satisfying moment because, as I have mentioned before, I often feel that Jussi (and therefore all Scandinavians) are a different –  that is to say superior – species to the Brits and I often play the awkward, stubby Gimli to his much sleeker, cooler Legolas.

On a more relevant note, when we went out on Thursday I was able not only to talk in French, but to make people laugh –  which is an important step in learning a language for histrionics like myself. I admit that my task of being interesting and entertaining  was made slightly easier by the fact that our companions were stoned beyond all capacity to stop themselves laughing – the room at halls in which we ended up playing drinking games was literally covered in posters of Bob Marley (it’s a shame there’s no French word for cliché). Just as I was trying to convince myself that not everyone in France is obsessed with ‘le shit’, I read an article about a French farmer who was arrested for feeding cannabis to his ducks (canardbis! Anyone? No?). This does not take anything away from the fact that I am starting to bridge the void between intelligible and intelligent with my French – for example I was able to express, by way of a monologue that lasted roughly as long as a Shakespeare soliloquy, my complex argument for why rock music is dying (it was well deep) – although I still need people to speak to me like a five year-old so that I can understand them, so there is still work to be done.

In French as a foreign language on Friday I was actually mocked by the teacher for not having a girlfriend, which was new. Although she did console me by saying that, at the age of nineteen there is ‘probably still time’ – words in which I took great comfort. Bitch. I took even more comfort in the fact that French boys are not, it would seem, the lotharios they appear to be in fiction. A certain female Erasmus student has become something of a prize on campus, but has not been swayed by attempts to woo her which include a note (that’s right a note) that said she was very pretty, and being asked out by a friend of her suitor on his behalf. As always Blackadder tells the truth about the French far better than I ever could: “On the contrary I hate you English with…your ridiculous preconception that all Frenchmen are great lovers. I’m French and I’m hung like a baby carrot and a couple of petit-pois.”

On Saturday I was immensely satisfied to watch the Scottish rugby team, armed with their secret weapon, rain, vanquish the world champions at Murrayfield. Truth be told, I was almost as satisfied that I succeeded in watching it on ‘BBC iplayer’ from abroad. I have already explained my mild retardation when it comes to technology, so downloading a programme that makes my computer think that I am in the UK was an astonishing feat of cunning by my modest standards. By doing so I probably gave away British (and now French: CURRENT AFFAIRS REFERENCE) nuclear weapon codes to the North Koreans and gave myself some form of radiation poisoning – but I still watched Richie Gray outjump the legendary Victor Matfield in a lineout – so it was worth it.

Saturday night was party time for the second week running (CALM DOWN YOU LUNATICS) There was a reggae concert in town with cheap drinks. Of course there were several very French quirks added in for good measure; there was an art exhibition in a different room of the same building at which they were giving away free cheese (handy hint: never say that French cheese is awesome because it tastes just like extra-mature cheddar); the toilets were unisex (handy hint number 2: do not pee in the unisex toilet with the door open when French girls are about: they are a curious bunch). These cock-ups (GET IT?) aside it was actually a really fun night, although I have to admit that we saw about five minutes of a reggae band (think if ‘The Specials’ collaborated with ‘Blondie’ but they didn’t quite click)  and spent the rest of the time getting swallied (that’s Scottish for drunk {which I think I might still be}).

And that, my pretties, brings us very much up to this moment. I’m off watch Albi play rugby.

Pray for me that the hangover Gods will be merciful.



Categories: Albi, France

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