14

on

The end of my time in France is shooting towards me like a freight train flyin’ like an aeroplane, feeling like a space brain etcetera and it feels like the whole thing has come and gone too quickly. On one of my first days in Albi my new flatmates and I bought a giant packet of plastic cups which we have used only sporadically and the continued presence of these cups in the kitchen has, throughout the whole semester, given me the feeling that the year abroad was just beginning and that there was still plenty of time to get settled. It really struck me that the end is nigh when we used the last of these cups drinking my awesome punch at our end of term party; I am seeing the statue of liberty on the beach; I am realising that I’ve been dead all along; I am entertaining the notion that life itself may be a dream in an annoyingly ambiguous way. I board the Night Train on Friday and, as much as I am looking forward to seeing friends and family and being able to go to the shops on a  BLOODY Sunday, the fact that half of this adventure has already expired makes me very sad.

Not for the first time, I began the week in the grip of a truly monstrous hangover, which made studying an even more unwelcome prospect than usual. Luckily I had barely started my third and final giant piece of coursework of the term when I was called to arms to celebrate Finnish independence day on Monday night. The ritual for doing this involves drinking ‘Gluggi’ (mulled wine with raisins, almonds and vodka in it which you drain and then eat the contents with a spoon) and watching the great ball in Helsinki while passing unreserved judgement about the appearance and outfits of the Finnish dignitaries. Apparently we did a more than passable impression of a good old Finnish independence party which was pleasing and it was nice in general to do something festive and merry at this time of year.

Deprived of my usual fix of live sport having spent a weekend shopping, in dire need of doing something manly and effort-free and feeling like a patriotic Finn after Monday, I spent some of the rest of the week watching the ‘floorball’ (a cross between indoor field hockey and ice hockey) world championships with Jussi which Finland actually won, beating the Swedes (those bastards), convincingly in the final which I took as a good sporting omen for my big rugby match on Thursday.

Before that I had to spend all of Wednesday working when it was twenty degrees degrees outside – apparently a full forty hotter than in some parts of Scotland, although I did not even get the chance to do some smug sun-bathing due to the Mount Doom of work that had just erupted in my face.

On Thursday I played for the University rugby team for the last time, against one of our rivals who we hate apparently and got a fitting send off as we made sure of a 22-14 win with a breakaway try from the last play of the game to end a strange season nicely. This game made me feel suitably integrated into French society as the referee said at one point that he had ‘never heard a scrum-half who gave him so much cheek without speaking French’. I took from that that I can add myself to the French tradition of ‘petits generaux’ like Faibien Galthie and Jean-Baptiste Ellisalde  – although perhaps the general I most resembled was not De Gaulle, but General Melchett.

My giddiness about this successful rugby swansong was short lived, as I had left myself two FLE assignments to do in roughly 14 hours; irresponsible perhaps, but undeniably bad-ass – I bet Russel Brand and Pete Docherty left their homework that late when they were young. So it was after an all-nighter that I went to FLE with both my project on Vanuatu and my Erasmus guide to Albi (the latter in purple ink with a barbeque sauce stain on the front page) completed. The hard night took its toll about a minute into the presentation on Vanuatu when Fran, the poor sole who partnered me in this exercise, drew a map of Vanuatu which resembled, to my bleary and sleep deprived eyes, a certain part of the male body performing a very specific function. Needless to say, after a brave stab at a straight face I burst out laughing and took a good five minutes to calm down. I feel like that was an appropriate way to leave FLE; the teacher now openly hates the entire class and all we can do is laugh.

Saturday was spent preparing for our bonanza Christmas party and meal the following day which meant the second Saturday in a row shopping (WOMAN ALERT). After traipsing the town for hours and taking another unsightly gouge out of my Erasmus grant I went to the pub what has to go down as an awkward pint with Molly and Laura and two of their friends (although maybe “friends” is a bit strong and “people they had met once before” would be more appropriate) – which was a harsh reminder that topics of conversation in a second language can run out quickly, and when they do, improvising is hard work.

Sunday was centred around our respective parts of our Christmas dinner; for me this was the roast potatoes; the glue that holds every such meal together. Armed with the ancient Cubie family recipe I only made one tiny misstep and undercooked some of the potatoes before putting them in the oven, but they turned out not bad at all and formed part of one of the truly epic meals of my life; the table looked like the diplay Dr Gillian McKeith would use to show Santa that he is over-indulging in Christmas food.

After well and truly stuffing ourselves we then moved two houses away for party time, to which my contribution was, as I said, a “punch” which mysteriously got stronger and stronger over the course of the night until it was just a bowl of vodka. Needless to say the party descended into chaos; S-Club 7 songs were sung, complex dance-routines were attempted and failed and a good time was had by all: further proof that alcohol is as important to fun as roast potatoes are to Christmas dinner.

I will make my last post brief, probably on Sunday when I am already home and then I am off duty until I arrive in Malaga in February.

Ciao,

Gregor.

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