Monday, June 04, 2007

Party in the lobby

By Saturday afternoon, the car still hadn't come back, and as indicated, we were all getting desperate when someone hit on the idea of walking to a supermarket. Said supermarket was advertised first as being a 30 min to 45 min walk away, which was subsequently upgraded (or should that be downgraded) to a 45 min to an hour walk. It ended up, in fact, taking us 1 hour 15 to get there, leaving me plenty of time to bitterly regret wearing my jeans on the trek across the suprisingly boiling French countryside. (The weather for the past few days has taken on the pattern of misty, cool mornings followed by the mist burning off and being replaced by hot, cloudless, sunny afternoons, which caught me out on this occasion.)

This wouldn't have been such a problem except I had a group coming in that evening, and it was estimated that I should begin walking back to the chateau at 4 pm - we didn't in fact arrive at the supermarket until 4.15, leaving me with a slight scheduling difficulty. Plus the 'supermarket' was surely the crappiest institution ever to bear that name. It didn't even stock such things as Coke or Pepsi, just no-name 'brands' and only one type of everything. And my shopping list, which featured such exotics as hummus, pesto and nail scissors, was destined to go unfulfilled. On the plus side, I could, had I so desired, have picked up a bottle of table wine for 75 euro cents. Our trek also took us through a village-wide garage sale, complete with icecream and pizza vans, carnival rides and blocked-off streets - if only we'd had the time to stop and browse. Seriously, if there's one thing the French crave, it's evidently the opportunity to purchase their goods in a stall-based setting.

The return trip was not fun, as I was forced to leave the rest of the dawdlers (who had nothing bar dinner to rush back for) and hoof it across the countryside at double-quick speeds, seriously regretting my clothing choice, but making it back in 55 minutes and with 5 minutes to take a quick (cold) shower and await my group, who rewarded my efforts by turning up 45 minutes late, d'oh!

The group was only a one-nighter (I personally question the wisdom of departing Oxford with a group of 11 and 12 year olds at 6.15 am on a Saturday, hauling them out and around the north of France all day, arriving at the Chateau at 7 pm, then getting them up and out the next morning for more tripping around France and finally back to Oxford at 11.45 pm on Sunday, ready for school on Monday, but then it's not my call) so, since I talked them out of partaking in any organised evening entertainments, I had very little to do with them. (Incidentally, on the report they filled in, they gave me marks of 4 and 5 for everything, except for 'staff at evening entertainments' which received a 3, doubtless because all except two members of staff buggered off to a party for the evening ha ha.)

Ah yes, the party. We were all invited to a house-warming party for one of the French guys we know, although 'house' is a term to be taken with a giant lump of salt. The gentleman in question abides in a 'foyer' - no, not in someone's lobby, but a 'foyer pour jeunes travailleurs' - a 'hostel' for young workers. Hostel is an apt term, as the inhabitants of the foyer have their own teeny weeny little room, with a bed and a desk and a wee bar fridge, but share toilet, shower and living-room facilities. I'm not entirely sure if there's a communal kitchen, I didn't see one but I would imagine so. I suppose the point is to give young people who could not otherwise afford it a place to live - don't know if the concept of flatting in a house with other people is common in France. Don't know that I'd want to live in one, but an interesting idea nonetheless. And a party with about 11 of us in this tiny room was also an interesting concept.

Yesterday I had to get up and mooch around while my group were 55 minutes late in departing, only to find that they'd misinterpreted my speech about stripping all the linen off the beds and also removed the plastic matress covers. Why, god, why? From my point of view, these things are practically part of the mattress - they zip all the way round, for a start. When I discovered this, I gritted my teeth in an approximation of a smile and said it was quite all right, but my heart rightly sank, since it wound up taking about 3 times as long to change the beds since it involved wrestling the covers back on to the mattresses.

One good thing that happened yesterday was that the car arrived back from the garage. On a Sunday, no less - incroyable! It can only have been because we had all given up hope of it that it decided to turn up again. Since France is closed on Sundays, the plan was to take it out for a spin in Belgium, le plat pays to which I have not yet been. This would have been a fun day out, but we had to drop this girl back home first - she is English but lives in France and is coming out to work at the Chateau just as soon as she turns 18, and had come to the party the day before. Incidentally, I told her she had some food on her tooth, which backfired on me when it emerged that she, for reasons best known to herself, had some sort of jewelled tooth ornament. Crazy! Why wear something that looks like tooth crap and lures others into committing social faux pas? See, this is why people are too embarrassed to tell you when your fly is down or you have food all over your face - sometimes it can all go horribly wrong. Anyway, her home turned out to be an hour's drive away, so the only afternoon fun we had was being stuffed into a hot car for an hour there, drop her off and then turn straight around and drive an hour back to the chateau. I can, however, confirm that France is 90% fields for an hour south of the chateau as well - educational.

Here's hoping that we get out to the real hypermarket this afternoon.

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