Convention tells me a Year Abroad blog should start with an apology for not updating every week like initially promised. But sod that for a game of soldiers. I apologise for nothing. I’m not updating this because I’m having too much fun. Since my last blog post I’ve been to Toulouse and Sheffield, I had my outlook on life shaped by Skyfall and I’m loving life a lot more. The most defining aspect of my month came on Friday when I received my Grant. I’ve never liked the word Grant, it always reminds me of Grant Mitchell, who always annoyed me far more than Peggy and Phil. In fact, if it wasn’t for Billy Mitchell I’d hate Grant the most… I appear to have digressed somewhat. Anyway, Erasmus, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to give me ‘shit loads’ (their words – not mine) of euros which has made life twice as much fun. I seem to have got through a lot of it already over the last 4 days but that doesn’t concern me too much – if I ever have to return to more austere times I can always console myself with the words of Homer Simpson
HOMER: Well, he’s got all the money in the world, but there’s one thing he can’t buy.
MARGE: What’s that?
HOMER: [thinks] A dinosaur!
Anyway, there’s a brief summary of what’s been happening in my life. The nitty gritty starts now. Or rather it doesn’t … I’m on Erasmus year in Aix en Provence – there’s neither nit nor grit here.
If GCSE French taught me anything … Its that life can be divided into 6 very simple topics which we can then talk about in an oral exam. (It also taught me some degree of French to which I should be fairly grateful). Today I’ll discuss the obscenely broad topic that was Health and Fitness.
I’ll start with Health, or use health as a euphemism to discuss food in a bold attempt to give this blog some semblance of structure. The food here is incredible. If I was doing this Year properly I’d be cycling down to the marché each morning with a large wicker basket. I’d carefully select the legumes that are in season and then go home and make a ratatouille or something Provencal like that. I’m going to shock you all (all 2 of you reading) and say that I don’t do that. Instead I go to the other French Catedrale de Cuisine that is Carrefour. God I love Carrefour. My adoration of French supermarkets is no secret. I bloody love them. They’re just so much more exciting. Long Eaton Tesco may have a fishmonger and a butchers but there really is no comparison. Carrefour has it all – their butcher has all meats from Horse to Rabbit, the Charcuterie gives you all sorts of options from a variety of cuisines – there was an incredible looking Bouillabaise there yesterday – I was tempted to buy it in a vain attempt to try and attract Fleur Delacours attention – Beauxbatons surely can’t be that far away? And then there is the Cheese Counter. My god. The Cheese Counter – (It deserves Capital Letters – in fact – it deserves a bloody parade). With so many delights on offer you really have to restrain yourself.I went on a mad one yesterday and spent €100. I think the Swordfish and the Sushi I bought attests to that. Usually I’ll aim to shop for half that price which is very easy in there. If you can resist temptation that is.
Finances aren’t the only impediment to my purchases. The kitchen really isn’t for the Harriots or Worral-Thompsons of the world (don’t know why I’ve picked the two shittest chefs). I’m frequently heard to complain about the two hobs and a microwave (sounds like a shit football chant) in the kitchen. But it really is a disgrace. How they think that’s appropriate for 30 people I will never know. The lack of oven is particularly annoying – this rosbif can’t have rosbif until he returns.
In a classic Little Britain episode, Stage hypnotist Kenny Craig uses the term cupboardy to illicitly win a game of Scrabble. Apparently that was cheating because it isn’t a word – yet it seems most appropriate. My kitchen is the least cupboardy place on earth. Aside from the cooking implements there is nothing in that room. My bedroom slightly resembles a poorly run Netto superstore, random tinned goods are strewn over the shelves. Its fortunate that I dedicated so many maths lessons to playing Tetris on my iPod because that’s the only way I manage to fit my weekly shop into my mini fridge. But its all good fun and all fuel for my other exploits.
Mainly rugby. I’m a massive fan and coming to France is a golden opportunity for me to improve as a player. I play for the Fac de Lettres, they play a series of fixtures each year against other University teams en Provence – from as South as Marseille to as North as Avignon. The differences between playing here and for Sheffield Oaks are pretty vast. In all aspects! Noticeably at training – the first half an hour is essentially taken up by les bises – greeting every player on the team with the obligatory kisses – that’s a tradition I can’t see being adopted by South Yorkshire. A depressing statistic for this straight, single man is that I’ve kissed far more men than women during my stay in France. Its fantastic for my French though, for about 6 hours a week I’m surrounded by a very French environment and culture which has helped my language far more than any class could. The guys are really supportive too and there’s always someone to assist when I invariably am lost behind a language barrier.
Our first game was yesterday which was great fun. A game at 20:00 on a November night in England would never work – but we were in Marseille under the floodlights – it was brilliant. The first noticeable change was when I discovered the scrums were uncontested – it might as well have been Year 9 set 5 PE class. It was shocking. But this made the game a bit more expansive I suppose. French rugby is hilariously true to stereotype – they just want to play with flair. There was very little rucking and plenty of offloads/side steps etc. The lads were taking the piss out of me a bit after the game for eating my post-game pre-prepared salad. ‘Where is your rosbeef?’ and ‘that eez not feesh and cheeps’ were two such witticisms but that’s #AixBanter for you.
Given my aversion to lectures I suppose it is fair to say that eating and playing rugby take up the bulk of my life – apart from going out of course. Its impossible to believe that in 4 weeks home I’ll be sat excitedly in Marseille departure lounge (flying with BA no less!) and constantly playing ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ on my iPod. Its quite hard to feel too Christmassy at present because the sun is shining everyday and I’m walking around in a t-shirt half the time. Its also quite sad to think that some friends who I’ve made over these last few months are moving on to pastures new. But that’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. Here’s to the final four festive weeks in Aix.