Sunday was not a propitious start to my French adventure.
I got up in the morning, hoping to find one of those famous French bakeries and have a very French breakfast. I must have been looking wrong because I couldn’t find one. I ended up having breakfast on my first morning in France in McDonald’s. Yes. You read that right.
Then I went to meet my fellow tutor to talk through the timetable for the course. She didn’t agree to a single one of my suggestions.
Somewhat dejected, I went in search of a supermarket. McDonald’s hadn’t filled me up and I needed lunch. I walked zig-zag back and forth across Strasbourg. The few supermarkets I saw weren’t open. It was Sunday after all, and Europe is silly that way.
I walked for so long that I got very sunburnt. Being sunburnt is never fun, but when my mother said goodbye to me from her hospital bed last week the last thing she said to me was to put on plenty of suncream because I burn so easily. There really is no guilt like that of the son of an Irish mother.
Feeling guilty, sunburnt and hungry, I found a petrol station. I bought a packet of biscuits and a day-old sandwich.
I got home and smeared myself with after-sun. I sat down, ready to tuck into my sandwich. The bread was stale and the lettuce was brown. I miss artificial additives and preservatives. I dumped the sandwich and ate the biscuits.
Remember my electric toilet? Well, it’s mental. It has a tap thing that might or might not turn the water off. It has an engine that might or might not extract the toilet’s contents. Sometimes the tap thing won’t stop. Sometimes the engine-thing won’t stop.
On Sunday, after my biscuit-lunch, the tap thing wouldn’t stop. Because I don’t know how electric toilets work, I tried to turn off everything. Worst thing I could have done. Without the engine on, the toilet flooded the bathroom.
Here I was with a bathroom full of water, skin red with sunburn and guilt, a belly full of McDonald’s and biscuits and about to start a course with a timetable I disagreed with. My brother, his wife and their babies arrived.
The 28 of them (for which you should read five) fitted in the house. They rode my like a horse (the children, not my brother). They fed me (my sister-in-law, not her kids) and eventually I went to bed and to sleep. Fours hours later a baby’s whimpering woke me. I miss being a smoker. When I smoked, it would have taken an earthquake to wake me.
Sunburnt, tired and unbreakfasted, I made my way to work. I got on a tram going the wrong way because I am Connor. I got off it and went the right way.
At work, there was no photocopier. No printer. No internet. I barely understood the timetable, which seemed to change by the minute anyway. Worst of all, there’s no office. When I’m not teaching, I sit prepping in the hallways, loitering malevolently because there’s nowhere else to go.
My colleagues and trainees are all lovely. But this is not the CELTA course of my dreams.
I’m actually in quite a good mood now, but I’ll save all the nice things I have to say about France for another day.
Because this is not one of those posts about how wonderful life is. When the bathroom flooded, when my nephew woke me at 5 a.m., when I found myself balancing a laptop on my knee in the hallway of a French college, when the lettuce turned out to be brown, when my skin turned out to be tomato-red, I blamed myself, for I am a disaster.
A good friend of mine sent me an email today. She told me that she’d thought of me when she’d found herself stranded in Waterford on a Sunday night. I laughed when I read that. Because that is exactly what would happen to me.
But someday, in the not ridiculously distant future, someone’s going to write to me and tell me that they were watching a Brad Pitt film and they thought of me. Someday.