It’s a weird time of year to be out of the UK. I never thought the drizzly end of October and dreary start of November could be a period that would make anyone homesick, but if there’s one thing the Brits do best it’s using fire and alcohol in an enthusiastic but responsible fashion to distract us from the fact that our weather is so darn horrible.
Of course in a student population, halloween will always be a big deal- student societies throw parties, maybe a few clubs have a theme night, and you are going to paint your face like a zombie, drag queen or member of kiss (ten points if you manage to do all three) wherever you happen to be in the world. But other holidays are not so international.
Guy Fawkes did not try to blow up the Arc du Triomphe. There is no national drive to pin poppies on berets. Even the blossoming tradition of Movember, which sees men of all levels of folical finesse try to sprout an upper-lip tickler for charity, is relatively unknown here. So fireworks, paper flowers and feeble moustaches just might creep onto that list of Things I Miss From Scotland you’ve secretly been making in your head.
One possible solution, which I duly tested quite recently, is to make a mid-term visit during your mid-term break. France has a national holiday on the 1st of November, Toussaint, so it’s used as an excuse for a week-long school holiday. Those who stay in France take the opportunity to travel about, catch up on reading, or simply drink, drink and drink some more before the hustle and bustle of a thirteen-hour week starts up again.
Those who leave will see friends and family and, hopefully, all the things on that mental list. Mine contained the following:
Snax & the Hive – my two favourite dirty four-letter words
Flat party – virtually impossible in French halls since rooms are ten metres of lino and dust and the kitchens are draughty and over-policed
Open Mic Night – again, relatively unheard-of in France, it would seem.
Papa John’s 2 for Tuesday, Baguette Express, Teviot Nachos, those awesome flapjack bars they sell in P-Row- I never knew I would miss Scottish food this much
Arthur’s Seat – just to look at, the old bumpy fool gives me this glowy feeling I can’t quite explain
Baking – impossible with no oven. The French don’t understand a student’s need of pasta bake and pie, oven chips and home-made strudle.
Mal du pays, or homesickness, is yet another reason why Erasmus kids of the same native tongue band together. Just the sound of a non-glottal r can be very comforting sometimes, as can an inter-dental fricative, and there is no one who can talk about the weather like a true Brit.
But les vacances are over now, and it’s time to knuckle back down. Except, two of my thirteen hours are cancelled for the next few weeks, and I didn’t exactly get to travel about during Toussaint…