The north of France had a bit of snow last week. I say a bit… over half a metre in places. I’d never seen so much of the stuff in my life. I freely admit that I’d underestimated the meaning of a red snow warning – Eurostar trains, national SNCF trains, ferries, buses, trams, planes… all cancelled. The only place you could fly to in the UK was apparently Aberdeen. When the only place that you can fly due to bad weather is Scotland, you know the world has gone mad.
I’m not a huge fan of snow at the best of times. It’s cold, it’s slippery, stuff closes, I have poor natural balance… it just generally disrupts life. This latest snow has deepened my hatred even further. On Monday, the school stayed open so I had to take a taxi to get there and back. The other days, I thankfully didn’t have to go in. It was a horrible start to the week!
By Friday, a couple of hot days had melted the majority of the snow. Natalie came over to watch a couple of films (Asterix au service de sa majesté and Easy A) and we ordered pizza. It was a really nice night and we had a lot of fun.
On Saturday, I went bowling in Montivilliers with Natalie, her boyfriend and Sam. It was really good fun and it was nice to chill out and relax. We played a couple of games of pool and, for what I believe to have been the first time ever, I actually managed to pot some balls. I’m improving!
One thing I cannot understand is how, even in another town, I managed to see one of my students. I do not know any other assistant in any country who meets their students outside of school as much as I do. Trams, buses, bowling alleys, restaurants… you name it, I’ve probably met a student there. I’m fairly sure they’ve got together to create some kind of stalking rota. When Natalie came over on Friday, a group of my (cheeky but really nice) terminale even shouted ‘Is that your girlfriend?’ at me. I wasn’t sure whether to tell them to bugger off or praise their English sentence structure.
On Sunday, I went to eat lunch at the headteacher’s secretary’s house in Notre-dame de Gravenchon. Secrétariat du proviseur is a key role in the French school system – it doesn’t translate well into English. I think ‘bureaucracy tamer’ or ‘paperwork magician’ are the closest you’d probably get. We had a really lovely lunch of fairly typical French dishes – an aperitif of kir (in this case, crémant d’alsace with cassis), an entrée of carottes râpées, a main of paupiettes de pintades farcies, a cheese course (obligatory), a dessert of flan and finally coffee accompanied by marzipan macarons. Pintade is guinea fowl, a meat I’d never seen in England or considered trying, but it was delicious. I think it’s probably most similar to turkey but it’s much more moist and flavoursome.
After this, we went to the Victor Hugo museum at Villequier. Hugo was a great French writer, responsible for a wide range of well-known stories including The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables. The museum was interesting and very pretty although I’d hoped it would be more about Hugo’s literature and its inspirations than about himself and his family.
When we visited the museum the weather was overcast and stormy and the Seine, which sits right in front of the house, was stirred-up and violent. Victor Hugo’s daughter drowned in the Seine when she was living in that house and it has been said that the pain and the sadness that this caused the author eventually led to some of his greatest work.
Following this, we visited l’abbaye Saint-Wandrille de Fontenelle (Fontenelle Abbey), a working Catholic monastery, before heading home for the evening.
There isn’t a great deal else to say. Last night, I went to see ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ with Sam and Alex which I’m in the middle of reviewing for The Edge. Other than that, the snow made it fairly difficult to get things done and life has been fairly slow. With only four weeks to go in France, it’ll be exciting to see what else I can fit in before we leave.