Drinks on me

I have fallen for another, she can make her own way home. Okay, it’s a Swedish girl, and I imagine I wouldn’t be the first to be falling for her ilk. Her name is Anna, and she’s blonde and beautiful and great fun. I have a friend crush on her and I want her to be MINE. However, given how empty my wallet is this morning, I also suspect she is a brazen thing who pays for nothing. I met her through the German, who kindly invited me along to the Christmas markets with her and her boyfriend. I was tired and had a comfy crevice burrowed in the couch cushions for myself, but I was so delighted to be forgiven for last night’s puke-fest that I thought I had better go and try and redeem myself. We spoke English for the most of the night, and I once again very much enjoyed having a personality. We ended up in a really cool bar that Anna knew about, where they were having an open mic night. The Germans went home, but me and Anna were having too much fun, telling each other how great we thought each other were. After the first drink there, Anna announced that she had no more money, but this to her mind was no object to having another drink. I obliged, as you would, but I feel a bit stupid about obliging again for the third round… Still, we had a great time, we danced and flirted our way bilingually around the pub. So yes, I’m hungover again, and it is Not A Good Thing. Not least because I have to work 11 hours today. However, sheer exhaustion seems to have descended a strange calm around me, and we got through the midday service without realising until afterwards that it was 30% busier than normal. Maybe I’ll continue the drinking. But that Swedish wan can pay the next time!

Tunisia 1b is never dull

This week of work is off to a good start. I’ve finished my weekend shifts, and all has gone well. Everyone was nice to me, and I even managed to make a few jokes with the clients. Also, Alice est Malade. Ha. Delighted I am. I couldn’t even conceal my delight enough to sound sympathetic when the boss told me, and launched into an ill-advised and probably incomprehensible rant about the origins of the word ‘marmalade’. (I think “Alice est Malade” reminded me of the phrase “Marie Malade”, which apparently led to the coining of the word. Apparently has something to do with Marie Antoinette). Honestly if I manage to make any French friends here it will be an utter miracle, with anecdotes like that.

Karim and I are getting on well though, and he has upped the level of self disclosure. The latest has me speechless. Apparently, not only did he have a fiancée in the past, but he has also been MARRIED. Not even to the same fiancée!! He was married at 19 to a French girl. It lasted a year and they are now Divorced. He’s 24!!! A colourful character indeed. He’s much aggrieved at the moment though, as a result of the events of last night. (The recounting of which was what led to the previous confessions in fact.) I was in bed after work, and heard him returning home with a girl. One of the copines, I assumed, but oddly, and to my great relief, I heard very little else. However, when I got up in the morning, I noticed a big heap of clothes and a pair of hiking boots in the sitting room. What was going on exactly? Lo and behold, a Spanish girl emerged from Karim’s room, with Karim in hot pursuit, and he was soon escorting her back to the train station. It turned out he had met her there the night before, when he had a rendezvous with someone to sell some Playstation controls (long story -not worth going into details but we spend long hours comparing originals to copies, and debating the advantages of colours and lighting). While there, he encountered this girl who asked to use his phone to contact her friend, as there was some problem with her SIM card. The friend was uncontactable and the girl was about to be without a roof over her head for the night, which Karim could not stand over. So he invited her home. Now admittedly, not all of his intentions were that honourable, and he also hoped to profit from the situation. Further conversation with this girl revealed that she was travelling alone through Europe with very little money, and had been bunking in with strangers as she went. She explained to him that she often slept with these people -didn’t matter if they were old or strange or anything, she just did. However, she refused to sleep with Karim, and he is Baffled. She told him if he tried anything that she would bite him (I am not sure what percentage of this was a joke) and he spent the night keeping strictly to his side of the bed, in fear of getting rabies. So he hasn’t slept well and keeps repeating, “Mais pourquoi pas moi???” (“But why not meeee??”) She slept with everyone else like! He can’t understand it and has concluded that the next damsel in distress will be left unceremoniously at the train station.

Continuing cultural studies

Karim is back from his vacances. He is very sick with a head cold and a chest infection, but tells me he has a fear of doctors, and will not go. So when I casually offered him some Sudafed, he leapt on the packet like a hungry leopard. “How many of them should I take -two? Three? Four?” “ONE!!!!” I shrieked!!! But he had already hoofed three of them into him, before he even asked if he should take them with water. He then returned with my ‘present’ from Tunisia. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I can’t make out if it is a handbag or a bonnet, but wearing it in either sense would lead to similar levels of social exclusion. It is Revolting. But it was very very nice of him. He tells me it is hand made. Men should never be allowed in shops. Oh god I hope his sister didn’t make it or anything. It might come in handy anyway. For storage. In a drawer. In the dark.

He makes me laugh though. I was at home tonight after work, watching something mindless on the television (as our Wifi is on the blink and ‘mindless’ is the only type of telly I can understand in French), and there was a woman on the Meilleur Patisserie, or the French equivalent of the Great British Bake Off, whose name was Chelsea. Karim walked in just as Chelsea was having some sort of chocolate egg related emotional breakdown, and was highly tickled by he situation -“CHELSEA is her name?!” he says, with great incredulity. “Why not AC Milan???” He might give borderline inappropriate presents, but he’s great entertainment value.

Visiting Vercors: being led up the garden path

9:30am

Well it transpires that my incompetence has extended to my personal life as well as my professional life. I got up at 6:30 this morning, and launched myself onto my tired feet at this ungodly hour. I had it on good authority (the weather forecast) that we would have cold temperatures but sunshine today, and I had an ambition to get myself to the mountains. There have been a number of failed attempts so far, previous plans being thwarted by bank holidays, buses, and finding work, but this time I was determined. I had given myself ten minutes leeway, in case I couldn’t find the bus, and was full sure I had left myself with ample wiggle room. However, in my hasty Google planning yesterday, i forgot that everything in France is highly bureacracised, and that to hop on a bus, buy a ticket and GO somewhere would be far too much to hope for. Naturally, office finding and lengthy queuing are in order. So having found the bus for Vercors, and on the second sprint found the ticket office, I stood in the queue until 7:49, watching the monitor telling me that the bus was still at the platform. I had tried the ticket vending machine to no avail, and joined the long queue -ignoring the lady at the empty counter who was clearly only stationed there for celebrities and royalty.  Equally naturally, the bus departed on time, at 7:50 -apparently long waits are only necessary for public services when it is highly inconvenient. Of course I was still in the queue. The wrong one, evidently. If I had paused my panic and read the sign, I would have seen that the queen’s first advisor was in fact the one selling bus tickets, and not train tickets. So I could have made it after all. Je m’énerve. I’m annoying myself. So now I’ve opted for the later time, and have lost all hope of ever finding a mountain without a car. I can SEE them, I just can’t REACH them.

Fail to prepare and all that.. (This plan incidentally was my third option for finding mountains, and nothing is guaranteed even if I get there, as I am awaiting the advice of a tourist office adviser in Vercors to see if such a thing is even possible -the buses generally refuse to take you to the mountains midweek). I am now back home in defeat, waiting for the next bus at 10:10, which is unlikely to leave me with much time for rambling around Vercors. There is a lot of failure associated with finding your pieds in France. Even more with getting your pieds on the montagnes, apparently -even the lady at the bus station told me to get a car. But it doesn’t help when you’re an optimistic ape who doesn’t read signs. Moral of the story? Sleep deprivation doesn’t work kids. It doesn’t matter how many espressos you drink.

But now, having had the time to open Facebook messenger….. Copine alert!!! A message from Karim last night, advising me that it is cold in France (clearly he saw the weather forecast too…) and to mind myself when I go out!! WTAF is going on in his mind???!

10:10am

I am on a bus!!! Who knows where it will take me exactly, but at least I’ve gotten this far..
I realised on the way to the bus station (round 2) that I still feel like I am only pretending to live in France. Even though I now have an apartment, a job, and you never know, maybe in time even a social security number. I run into people I know in the centre-ville, and I have someone possibly trying to seduce me into Islam. It all SOUNDS very much like I live here, but it still feels like I’m only playing a game. Which I am in a way, having run away from reality and kind of joined the circus -which has been a lifelong dream, if you must know. In fact, I’ve just realised that moving to France with a view to climbing up high things (rocks, mountains, whatever) isn’t a million miles away from the career path I chose at age 4, which was to join the circus and be one of the acrobats who climbed the ropes.  Christ, do we decide anything independently? I’ve long suspected that our major life decisions are driven not by rationality, but by an almost pre-conscious force, that is driven by much more primitive instincts and early-life formations. This has in fact been well documented in several prestigious psychology publications, but this proves it for me. My four year old fascination with the blonde lady in the blue sequinned bikini has led me to what many may interpret as an early mid-life crisis! I was always advanced for my age…

10:53am

You will not believe it. For some unspecified reason, the extraordinarily pretty office de tourisme has a special closure for Weds 29th and Thurs 30th November. The curse of the fermature exceptionelle strikes again….

Why France, WHY???? Toujours pareil, always the same, as the friendly bus driver told me. There was a promising looking sign outside with mountain routes, but it seemed to think I had three to six months to spare, not recognising that my last bus home is 6pm this evening, and only suggested routes ranging from 60 to 350km.

 

I took a stroll up through the town for a bit of investigation instead, now that I was there. It was DESERTED. Like, abandoned looking, tumbleweed gently rolling across the empty streets. All it’s missing is a Wild West style saloon, with no one there but a swinging door and a smoking gun. Vercors is clearly a skiing resort, but can’t think what else to do with itself for the rest of the year. Typical French attitude -they have no idea what to do with time off and just go to sleep. So I walked through the village -every shutter in the place closed and the wind whistling through the town -and out the other side. The were a few bedraggled looking signs claiming ‘overture 7/7 jours‘, (open 7 days a week) but this was either wild optimism or blatant lying.

On a whim I went towards the opposing mountains and followed the sound of water. Lo and behold didn’t I find a friendly yellow sign, pointing me to a number of possible walks of varying length!

Success!! Who needs tourist offices!! Actually me. I do. As everyone knows, those yellow signs only ever want to lead you up the garden path -quite literally in this instance; the path started at the back of a few of the shuttered up houses. So up the garden path I went, panting and wincing my way up what seemed to be very steep slopes.

Now I’m a great women for going UP things, with little consideration or thought given to getting back DOWN things. It was only when I turned around, after reaching a wide field with no further  directions (that’s yellow signs for you), that I realised I appeared to have, without noticing, mounted a red ski slope.

Tricksy that was, to pick my way back down.. But I did it. My left knee had an awful lot to say about the matter, but we’ve discussed it and I’ve promised it I will bring it to a physiotherapist before I bring it to another mountain. I also promised it a chocolate crepe with ice cream later, which appeased it no end.

So Vercors was an interesting trip, and the place is very beautiful, particularly in that gorgeous almost ephemeral frosty winter sunshine weather that is best experienced at altitude.

I did succeed in getting a bit of a hike in the mountains, and it wasn’t until I left on the bus that I realised I had stayed in the city almost without exception for a full two months, which is a most unlike me thing to do. Sadly, it looks like I won’t be repeating the experience any time soon, and purchasing a car is a long way off, unless I decide to purchase a set of crutches to go with it. So for now, crepes and ice cream it is.

Fawlty Towers: when fiction becomes fact

It is not that great a source of sadness to me, but I can never again watch Fawlty Towers. I have developed a sudden and powerful empathy with Manuel that I fear can never been reversed. For I am the clumsy, bumbling Manuel of our good creperie.

I can’t explain it, but somehow, when I translated myself into French, I became incompetent. (I must have used Google Translate). The amount of effing mistakes I am making!! It is unforgivable, and whatever about my co-workers, I don’t think I will ever forgive myself. The problem is, these are not mistakes of linguistics, for the most part! They are obvious, no-cop-on errors. Last night I spent many dark moments dejectedly reflecting on the lack of foresight involved in delaying placing an order until people had their aperitifs. Good god, what kind of an idiot am I?? And there are many more. Table placement is another challenge. You can put this down to my limited visual spatial awareness if you will, but for the life of me I cannot seem to seat someone at a table for two without being told that no, I should have put them at a different table.

Now admittedly, there are two aspects to the errors. Or maybe three. The first is that my brain is so busy concentrating on speaking a language that I don’t speak, that once it achieves this it feels proud of itself and decides to put its feet up for the evening. Disoster. And I can only imagine that this is what poor Manuel has been enduring all these years. While being clattered about the head by John Cleese. The second aspect is that I have discovered it is the great hobby of French people to go around correcting other people at every given opportunity. Being told I have done the wrong thing at every single turn (even in the rare occasions it’s not my fault, defending myself seems effortful and pointless), I am reminded of a book I read before I came here. It was written by an English woman who moved to Paris, and was utterly miserable, and even though she was not emulating incompetent fictional Spanish waiters, she was worn out from people stopping her in the street and chastising her. Genuinely, all the time -she was told she was using the lift wrong, walking around the park wrong, and I remember she reported that one woman gave out to her for having the wrong kind of coat on her son. So maybe there is an aspect of that going on as well. They all seem to have a touch of the Mrs. G.s, and her rigid patterns for cutlery arrangement. The third possibility of course, is that I am useless. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I have had many, many, MANY jobs, most of which I have been reasonably good at (with the possible exception of lying to landlords on the phone and telling them that our company had prospective tenants for them -this was not my strong point, no no). BUT I am getting better. Soon I will remember the importance of rinsing the plates when Brigitte is there, but Not when Alice is there, and of leaving the bucket IN the sink instead of BESIDE the sink for the person who opens in the morning. But only when it is Jeannette, Jackie is more flexible about such things. Aaargh. However, all has recently been forgiven by all of the above, because my work colleagues have realised that for some reason or another, I get lots of tips! Which is a great advantage when all the tips are divided between everyone, and has increased my popularity exponentially. Maybe the customers feel sorry for me, but maybe it is just that I am smiling at people and trying very hard to do what they ask. In other words, I am not French..

On a linked but separate note, I have made a new and dangerous discovery: Espressos. A little shot of alertness and happiness, that I thought I could never get used to, but OH. I’m still not mad about the taste, but who gives a rats arse about the taste?!!!! Indeed, rats arses may not be a million miles from said taste, but it can be sweetened with a tiny drop of milk. But the HIT!! Heart racing happiness!! In a cup! Everyone else in work was downing them goodo, so I thought to myself that I’d get in on the action. I love working in a place where basically mainlining performance enhancing substances is par for the course. Who needs sleep, I hear you exclaim? Not I! Which is for the best, because I may never again be blessed with its mercy… Still, I love them. And I plan to continue in this vein. Putting it directly into my veins, if necessary. But I promise to keep you updated if it gets to this, so that a low level intervention can be staged. But people of France be warned: there is a jittery waitress at large, whose eyes are popping out of her head, and who will refuse to give you Un Déca.

So now that I’ve imbibed three in rapid succession, to get me through the lunch hour, I’ve suddenly remembered the text message I got last night… “Coucou Sarah, ça va ?” It was Karim. Messaging from Tunisia. I assumed he was checking if his parcels had arrived, but he did not seem overly interested in my reports regarding same. No, he was messaging to see how I was, and did I want something from Tunisia? Like WHAT, exactly???? This made me very uncomfortable. Was he offering to bring me a present? And wanting me to ask for it?? QUESTION MARK!!! This chancer better not start thinking I am one of his copines, or he will find himself very violently disabused of the notion..

Personal hygiene is over-rated

Just what does it say about you, when faced with a choice of whether it is more important to make your apartment clean or make yourself clean, that you choose the apartment??? Every time. My Hungarian is coming over in half an hour, and it seems that there is nothing like a dose of anticipated shame to get you up and at em with the rubber gloves. As for me, I’m filthy, but I don’t think I smell so I’m hoping she won’t notice.

Karim has just departed for Tunisia for the next ten days, so it was a good time to start a quick “apartment-is-all-mine” spritz of the place anyway. I’ve been looking forward to this sole-ownership since I moved in, but now that it’s come around I’m actually going to miss him!! Even if he did cover the nicest feature in our apartment -our nice black glass and white veneer table -with a great wrinkled monstrosity that he thinks is a table cloth. In reality it is a large piece of grey lino with a design that looks like bar-codes and television static. I can forgive this however, because he’s great fun and good company. BUT: he does tend to somewhat alarmingly underestimate me.  On the way out the door, Tunisia bound, bags in hand, he told me not to open the door to strangers while he was away and to message him if the light bulb blows or anything, and he’ll call someone to take care of it!! It was kind of sweet, in a totally condescending way..

He gave me some very exciting news this morning though, which was that I had been talking in my sleep. He said he couldn’t understand what I said in English but he understood the French. The FRENCH!!! Talking, in my sleep, in French!! This is the most marvellous mark of progress, and I am Delighted. I might have been just listing off numbers, but sleep-French is sleep-French is sleep-French. I have decided to appoint myself a goal however. One of the usual perks of the job as a waitress or a barperson is being allowed to flirt with the customers. It’s more than allowed -encouraged, even, and I find that I miss that. I’ve only had one decent opportunity so far, but it was with great sadness that I walked away from the table, mute and dejected, as opposed to swishing my hips and fluttering my eyelashes. (Both of which I can do very well in English). So I have decided that when I can flirt in French and concoct a ‘plan de drague’ (literally, a plan of ‘pull’), I will be satisfied with my level. So that is the mission. As a purely linguistic exercise, of course. Although I suppose washing myself would be a positive first step all the same….

Karim is not a morning person….

Karim simply cannot get his head around why someone who isn’t working until 11:30 would even consider getting out of bed before that, let alone at 8:30. Which in my head is late, but in Karim’s is an abomination of industry. He spends most mornings snoozing or grunting sleepily around the apartment. I know better than to try and talk to him at such times -I have good experience with a best friend and a brother who are equally terrifying in the mornings. But he soon livens up, and is a great man for sharing information about his varied and chequered love life. He also likes to ask very personal questions, like as to whether I have ever been pregnant. But mainly the questions centre around what in God’s earth (or Allah’s) I could find to be doing three hours before work.

It seems that sleeping is a great hobby among the waiters and waitresses of France, and my work colleagues also seem to spend a great deal of time engaging in same when they are off. One of them, like Karim, tells me that he doesn’t really like having days off, because he is bored and has nothing to do, except watch the start of movies and fall asleep. I did somewhat idolise the famed lack of industriousness of the French, but I didn’t expect it to extend to their social lives. But it makes sense I guess. This particular work colleague has worked in the crêperie for a mere three years and has no aspirations to go back to his original career. He is single, but apparently so are all the rest of us who work there. The boss is threatening to put a sign on la fenêtre, announcing that all staff are 100% single. Now I liked Amsterdam and all, but I do draw the line at being advertised in a window.

So today I FINALLY got my bank card. Apparently it was sitting in my account in the university waiting for me to collect it. However, no one was about to tell me this. Or if they did I didn’t know it. Still, step one accomplished. (I have attempted online registration but that was apparently a step too far and they have blocked my account until tomorrow, for security reasons). Next step -commence attempts to secure a carte vitale. I’m told this can take up to 11 months, and no amount of stamping and shouting will change this. Karim apparently tried crying but that didn’t work either. It’s tomorrow’s mission. Tomorrow will be my first day off in 9 days, and I’m looking forward to it. However, had I known I was going to get to go on the tram to the university bank today, I would have been looking forward to that as well, so it seems I’m easily pleased. #trams4life

The infamous French air kisses, and the urge to duck and cover….

The bises, the bises, the bises.  The infamous air kisses. They have my heart broke, these bises. I finally worked up the courage to initiate air kisses to all four work colleagues I greeted today, and nobody flinched or anything. So I took that as a sign of great encouragement. I might even try it again. However, upon leaving, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to interrupt one of the guys’ mopping to go kissing him. As for the the two smoking outside the door, they have another think coming if they imagine I’m putting my freshly washed hair anywhere near their filthy cloud of smoke. (One must always take care to keep showering to a bare minimum). But it is a daily source of social anxiety. I’m thinking of keeping a permanently puckered expression, so that I’m ever ready. If people want to kiss me then, they can, nobody can say I refused. If they choose not to, then they will have to slink off uncertainly, unsure whether I was preparing for a lunge or whether that is just my face. Problem, I think you will find, solved.

Otherwise work was lovely tonight -it was very quiet and throughout the evening, I gradually got braver at chatting with my colleagues. They are very nice and friendly in fairness, and full of talk. I don’t follow much of this talk, but I’ll get there. I have devised a new plan to get them to teach me swear words, in return for which I will teach them the directions to the toilet in English. It sounds like a fair system to me anyway. Win win. I’ll let you know how it works out….

These boots are made for… searching

PM, Centre-ville

I have decided on the boots. I discussed it with myself, and we jointly decided to spend €75 on a good sturdy pair of Riekers, which I previously tried on in the Rieker shop. However, the shop is lost. Naturally, last week in the rain, I confidently left the place with the air of someone with a sense of direction, but now, it is nowhere to be found. I started by circling the centre-ville at random, pacing oddly angled street after oddly angled street. This having failed spectacularly, I have resorted to spinning around on a street corner and wailing. It’s not working either, but several people have put money in my hat.

On a separate topic -socialising. Or dodging it, as the case may be…. Following yet another Gabriela invite, I asked, out of nothing but politeness, how was the day in Lyon?

She sent me THIRTY THREE photos. I shit you not.

An hour later

So it turns out that there is a whole other side of the town that I completely forgot about. It’s big. And commercial. And the shop was 4.7 seconds from my street corner. But sadly, quite closed, like everything else, apparently at all times in France. It’s lunch time, and they are obviously off eating Nutella and smoking fags, when I want them to be standing here and selling me boots -which are slightly more masculine and biker-ish than I remember, but have you ever met a biker with cold feet, I ask you? No you have not.

Coming to France to learn about Tunisia

Well I’ve decided that Karim needs a blog All Of His Own. I started jotting a few notes on him last night, and in fact I believe they speak for themselves:

  • Karim and the performances
  • Karim and the fiancée off the Internet
  • Karim and the friends who get off with much older women for money and visas
  • Karim and religion
  • Karim and the reported ‘loads of copines’ (girlfriends)
  • Karim and the five Facebook accounts
  • Karim the adviser

So this happy chappy, as I said, deserves probably more than a blog -possibly a biography. But he’s only 24, so we’ll give him a bit more time before we start officially documenting his life and times. He is a man of great confidence, our Karim, and he can be no better explained than through his work history in Tunisia. If you have ever gone on an all inclusive package holiday, and met the very charming divils who flirt with you by the pool and try to drink with you at night, working for the hotel all the hours god gives them -one of those was Karim. He arranged the pool games, did PLENTY of flirting, and even performed in the ‘spectacles’ -the singing and dancing performances shown each night. He had no training in singing or dancing, but he explained that he had started in the back, with great fear, but petit à petit, he got better, and he demonstrated an impressive twirl in the kitchen to prove his point! Honestly he’s gas. Unfortunately, his ex girlfriend maliciously deleted all the videos of him from YouTube, and he has only one or two pictures left. He showed me these, and they are definitely legit.

That brings me onto Karim and his copines, his girlfriends. Of which he assures me, he has had many. Apparently the hotel in Tunisia was quite the hunting ground, and he has had a French girlfriend too. However, most interestingly, he had a FIANCÉE, which he casually dropped into conversation when we were sharing photos the other night. I will pursue this story in more detail in the future, but from what I understood, she is Tunisian, they seem to have gotten engaged over the Internet, and known each other for a year, but when they met, it didn’t work out. There is definitely something I have missed here, but I will attune my spidey senses and get more out of him, the next time I can stop him from mocking my French and ask a few questions. He is very self-assured, this pup, and regularly warns me against being too timid in the restaurant. I am often tired by the time I get to talk to him, and admittedly I can trail off mid sentence and lapse into defeated mumbling, but Karim disapproves strongly of such behaviour, and is keen to set me straight. A great man for the advice he is. Especially now that I have found work as a waitress -his particular area of expertise. He likes telling me to smile and pay attention to what people say, and he was most shocked that they let me take orders on my first day in the crêperie. (Admittedly they didn’t exactly let me, they had kind of said not to, but when the opportunity arose organically and I leapt in with my notebook and stilo, they didn’t stop me, so I took that as a positive..).

But I have digressed. Karim’s many copines, he tells me, are not forbidden by Islam. Now he takes a moderate approach to practicing Islam at best, and rarely shies at the opportunity to have a beer, but he does not eat pork and eats only Halal meat. He practices more rigorously in Tunisia (when his father is watching him), but here, he relaxes things. However, he says that it is fine to go out with non-Muslims, and maybe they will convert just for the wedding if it gets that far, but they don’t have to practice after that. He is genuine about being a Muslim though, and I think his religion is important to him. For example, he explained to me with some justifiable pride that Ramadan is about having a month to experience life like a poor person, to increase solidarity and encourage you to give 10% of your income to people less fortunate than you. He seems to take a lot of good from it. Karim also explained to me that because he was brought up in Tunisia, he is different from a lot of the Tunisian guys here, who were raised here in an unhealthy culture, where they are involved in all sorts of illegal activities. In Tunisia, he explained, he was brought up to be respectful of others, and I think he hopes to go back to Tunisia when he is older.

He has been lucky, because I think he had family in France before he came here, and therefore had dual citizenship of both countries from when he was fourteen. However, it is not always that easy, and he explained that he has a friend who would like to come to France, but it will cost him €4,000 just for a three month tourist visa! For a real visa, apparently the easiest way is to pay a French woman €10,000 to marry you, and divorce her after two years. Karim tells me with great conviction that this is easy, but I am not sold. Literally or figuratively. He has other friends who, in Tunisia, go out with much older women -lads of 22 and 23, with sugar mamas in their sixties. They are genuine relationships, but with a clear financial element. Karim was offered such arrangement when he worked in the hotel, but he politely passed the offer on to his friend, who is now driving a BMW.

Finally -although I am sure there will be much more to come -the man has not one, but FIVE different Facebook accounts.. He explained that this was for pirating. “WHAT??????” I said???? WHAT are you pirating??? But no, it was other people that had pirated his accounts, he meant. In fairness, this seems to be pretty common here, and a number of people I’ve met have had their accounts hacked, so it seems plausible. I only added one of his accounts, and he advised me (yup, mad for the advice) that I should hide my list of friends. Why, I asked? Well in case a new acquaintance like himself saw some of the jolies filles (pretty girls) who are my friends, and started adding them. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he tried any such thing with my jolies filles that I would bloque him without hesitation! I haven’t got any complaints yet….

Ah, life in apartment 1b will never be dull I fear, but now he’s behind me spraying copious amounts of man perfume around the sitting room, so I’d better be doing my maquillage and getting ready for work.