Archive for September, 2009

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Cinq jours pour m’installer

26 September 2009

I arrived Monday lunchtime. Having met the famous Yvette, who is much more helpful in real life than via email (which Isabella – my voisine – believes is because they distrust it, it’s not the minitel you know), and been introduced to the sanitaryware in my bathroom, I was left to my own devices. Now ordinarily you potter about deciding where to put your collection of oddly-shaped cornflakes and sorting your books into height order, but I was in luck! Amy came and whisked me into Strasbourg with her mum and we had tarte flambée, which is creamy onion-y goodness and a diabolo (a concoction of lemonade and grenadine – délicieux).

The city itself is awe-striking, it’s so definitely French, but has a Germanic feeling and a friendliness you don’t always find in the French. That’s not to say everyone is the same. I have had some fairly poor service that in any job I’ve had would have lead to immediate dismissal. The woman in the post office shouted at me about her children (I wanted to know which counter to go to for La banque postale) and Didier at Crédit Mutuel told me that he was not interested in my custom because he wasn’t going to make any money out of me. I told him that I didn’t like French banks because free banking is the norm in England and I didn’t see why you had to pay for something so basic! Perhaps it gave him a Radio 4-esque thought for the day. It’s probably a good thing that I’m incapable of slagging people off in French.

The food is odd. I had pâtes alasciennes (Alsatian pasta) yesterday, which was a new experience, but not unpleasant. I have enjoyed everything I’ve eaten, but I don’t think it would be what I chose to eat myself necessarily.

I’ve been to IKEA more often than is needed this week, but I do have all the things I need, and it was all their basics – 0,50€ plates, mugs, glasses. I got a rug to brighten the place up, but everything seems to get quite dusty. Isabella has a vacuum on her end of the balcony, so I might ask her where that came from… I invested in a kettle, it’s very sad that Sainsbury’s basics don’t exist here, but I’m quite impressed by the one I have, it’s pretty quick to say it cost under 10€! Talking of electricals, I’m thinking about cheap inkjets. I might go find a Maison de Presse and pick up a PC mag of some description. I have nothing better to do en ce moment!

I think we’re planning a CAF party tomorrow and I’m providing brie and tomato sandwiches. We’re filling out our housing benefit forms, there’s nothing like scrounging from a foreign government, essentially we just get our tax back. I need to find out about registering with a doctor too… à plus!

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En train (d’arriver)

21 September 2009

So, this is France. Jack said, before I left, of France: “Nice country, shame about the people!” I’m not entirely certain that I agree with this sentiment, although since 4am this morning (thank you for the wake-up call maman) I have yet to have an actual conversation with anyone short of “I bought my ticket in the UK does it need the stamp from the yellow box?” and “A pain au chocolat and a large white coffee”. Incidentally, it would appear that a UK large has gone the way of an American large and is rather erm large, whereas France has not had the pleasure of caffeine addiction and still does things, as we say, by halves. Well, this is hardly the greatest problem. To experience that, you need a laptop and a power cable. Usually you would think: I have power, let’s rock; but (and this is a sizeable but) neither the Eurostar, or the considerably snazzier looking TGV has a socket into which you can plug your « prise » – quel horreur! So, praying that my battery will hold out (2h10, it currently reckons), I should have enough time to type a little and exercise my tetris fingers, or watch an episode of the west wing. The choice!

So, my thoughts on the Eurostar. NXEC’s trains were nicer, but I was sat further from a toilet, so swings and roundabouts, I feel. The parisienne next to me slept throughout and snored daintily in a way so typically French. I snoozed and doubtless snored like a northern miner. Gorgeous. For future reference, if you are going on the métro, do think twice about how heavy your luggage is, because whatever they fought for in the revolution, it was certainly not lifts or escalators (c’est quoi, technologie americaine? – horreur!).

Conductors don’t want to see your ticket, they just bid you good day. See. I knew there was a good reason to be in France, although I do feel I’m missing out on fifty-something-year-olds on push scooters (intertextual reference FTW)…

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Notes from a small suitcase

18 September 2009

This is a blatant lie. My suitcase is not small, the problem is probably the amount of rubbish I’m trying to pack into it. In fact I don’t believe I can get one an awful lot larger than I have… I’m leaving on Sunday and my general unpreparedness is worrying. I do have somewhere to live, and as Ford Prefect urges I have a towel. Two actually, bath sheets the pair of them. Taking a leap into the unknown is a worrying thing to do, but I do feel sometimes like a mountain is being made out of a mole-hill, albeit a reasonably sized mole-hill.

Everything happened, as usual, at the last moment. The bank have been unhelpful, the tax man more so. Sometimes I feel quite glad to be leaving Britain behind, but it’s more than just unhelpful functionaries. Saying that my French and German friends are, by and large, already in abroad, which means I’m a long way behind them, some have even been issued with their chalk and set to getting dusty teaching.

And so, I shall now go and stamp on my suitcase and bully the contents into submission. Huzzah!