Sunday, September 11, 2011

In which I read some books, get even with the Algerians, and get hit on by a lesbian

Alrighty fellas, in a nutshell, voila a few things that have been going down since I last posted:
  • Last night went out with some of my 'friends' here (strange: we went out again tonight, and I'm beginning to settle into what I imagine one might term a 'friendship' with these people).
  • Marcel's place has become a sort of stepping stone between 'town' and my place. It's situated just behind the uni, so basically exactly midway between the two. Most nights, whether I've been out with him or not, I'll send him a text and drop by, or accompany him to his before heading on. A great thing I've discovered about Marcel, is that although he may not be the "fuck yeah!!11 Let's PARTAY!" type, he has a knack for concealing hidden talents. Ever since I picked up a backpack on leboncoin and told him about my amazing find, he has become obsessed with the website, and will often tell me he "can't tonight, I've got to go and pick up a lamp". One of his talents, is he seems to be pretty good with DIY. He found some old planks and turned them into shelves for his (shit) wardrobe. I showed up this evening on my way back from a few drinks, and we sat on his doorstep, as we normally do, and he produced juice and freshly made coffee cake. Excellent. Just the sort of fuel I need for my laborious cycle home. I say laborious, but in all honesty, the novelty hasn't worn off. I love that bike, and getting on it is never a chore, however tired I may be feeling (read: however wasted. Nearly mowed an old man down the other day. lulz!)
  • Cleaning up this shit hole of a room. One thing I'll say for myself, is I'm not lacking in imagination. It's what makes me so paranoid about, say, being left at home alone. Unfortunately, it also means I often have 'memories' that I cannot say are 100% accurate, because I wonder if over time I have embellished the truth slightly. I do have a fairly confident belief in the memory of my mother shrieking that my sister and I's shared bedroom looked 'like a brothel' once. And most days, as I gaze around my studio, I realize that in 10 years, nothing much has changed. The place does look like a whorehouse. The worst part is, I do regular damage control initiatives, putting on 'inspiring' tunes and blitzing the place, only to find that 5 minutes later the incense holder is over-flowing with cigarette butts again, and the floor is once again littered with discarded clothes, deemed too staid, or too slutty, or too trampy or too formal, or too teenagery or too thirty-something, or too WHATEVER - just too something, to be worn out of the house. 
Having given you a brief outline of my fascinating activities over the last few days, let's talk about some specifics. Thursday night, as I cycled home, my eyes taking in the airy boulevards and shuffling trees, I heard from behind me a faint yet consistent 'shhh' sound. I began to notice that it was becominjg more and more of a strain to pedal, so got off the bike to realize that my back tyre was punctured. FUCK. Words can't describe how pissed off I was, as I pushed the stupid bastarding thing the 30 minutes back home, resenting every cyclist I passed, glaring icicles as they whooshed past, their tinkling laughs trailing behind them. Obviously no-one else had ever had a puncture before, I was obviously all alone in this situation, the only person in the world to experience this inconvenience. I got the bike home, stomped up the stairs, fell asleep, and the next morning called the guy who sold it to me. Luckily, he's a pretty decent guy and had given me a one month guarantee, so I flung the bike on the tram and headed into the 'petite France' quarter to get it sorted out. He got it all fixed up in under 10 minutes, and I told him that I really wanted to learn to deal with this sort of thing myself, and so he said that in October (this month is his busiest month, understandably...all the students [myself included] want to get their grubby, poor little paws on a bike) he would have me over to his workshop and let me take apart an old bike so I could understand how it works, and then he would show me how to deal with punctures. As someone who has never been very 'manual', and who made the mistake of displaying total disinterest when faced with her father's DIY projects, I am now in the unfortunate position of basically not having a fucking clue on how to do just about most things. Lightbulb changing is something I can do, although tentatively. I feel proud when I open a tin or a bottle of wine. That's the extent of practical things I can do with my hands. So I think it would be pretty interesting to get to grips with something like dealing with bike punctures.

The bike repaired, I headed down to the train station area to join the library. Much to my joy, they had a proper, full English section, a far cry from the meagre collection found in Val. Having spent the past year resigned to taking out Patricia Cornwell novels, or worse, those 'classics' they insist on stocking (I mean, yeah, "Moby Dick" is a literary staple....but who's read it, and more to the point, who actually enjoyed it?), it was a complete and utter pleasure to have a whole new world of books spread out in front of me. Two books I just finished reading are:
  1. "L'étrangere", by Bess Nielsen: the tale of a Danish girl who goes to Algeria aged 16 to marry her charming Algerian husband, who turns out to actually be a massive dick. He tries to force her to become Muslim. She is forced to walk 3 steps behind him, is locked in their flat in Alger, has her child removed from her since it is customary for the first-born son to be given to the grandmother, is emotionally abused by the women of the family, and is forbidden from leaving Algeria without her husband's written permission. I must say, it was pretty enlightening, and made me immediately stop bitching about my punctured tyre. The day after I finished this book, I cycled through the streets of Strasbourg, wind in the proverbial hair, feeling light and so free, free to do anything I set my mind on. There's a little shop run by Algerians on the corner of my street, and they shout and whistle at all the women who go by ('Hey! *whistle* Hey you! My friend wants to talk to you chérie! Come on! Come here!') and I must admit, after reading this book (although I don't want to judge a whole society on one woman's account, I think I trust her), I felt appalled at not only the way they would treat their women, but how they would think it would be acceptable to treat women HERE. Since, I have developped a different technique when dealing with these guys - rather than walk past, eyes lowered, I shout back, nothing in particular, I just whizz past and screech the same incomprehensible animal sound they make to us, and turning the corner I clicked my tongue at them and laughed. Let THEM feel belittled, because I won't.
  2. On a much shitter level, I read "Eat, Pray, Love". What a load of absolute bollocks. I read it because of peer pressure. I feel like every woman on the planet has read it, so I should at least give it a try. If you haven't yet: don't bother. It's not even okay in a casual beach read sense. Dull, self-pitying, self-absorbed, arrogant, and worse of all - not funny. Sounds a bit like this blog, eh? ;) The first part of the book (Italy) was okay. As a self-confessed PIG (had a whole melted camembert this evening, following on from lunch's rich and cheese-laden carbonara....must stop....maybe next week...) I enjoyed hearing about the luscious food and gorgeous men. That's about it though. Particularly hateful part: when she tells us about a gorgeous Italian 20 something guy on a train  hitting on her. Not sure if believe. The second part (India) was I-want-to-slowly-strip-all-my-skin-off-my-body BORING. Do I give a FUCK about your chanting and meditation? No. No I fucking don't. She goes to an Indian temple to sit there and pray for 4 months. She adds a Texan character in there for good measure, but he's neither endearing nor funny. His nickname for her (I find this difficult to believe, btw) is 'Groceries'. Maybe she found it touching and 'we're so close now!' at the time, but....seriously? If your nickname is longer than your actual name and is also a very dull noun, then it ain't a good one. Particularly hateful part: when she goes to see the temple leader (forget technical word for), and tells him she finds one specific daily meditation session boring and would rather not do it. ARE...YOU....FUCKING...KIDDING ME? Last part (Bali), mildly better than second part (although perhaps because nearing end?) in which she goes to the island to essentially leech off a generous old man. She, a rich American writer, is to teach this medicine man English (which she never gets round to doing, natch), and he is to teach her to meditate (which he does, basically out of the kindness of his heart, not seeing a penny for his troubles - which is irritating, since let's face it, the woman is wealthy enough to go fucking around Europe for a year without working). Particularly irritating part: 2 years previously the medicine man had read her palm and had said 'you should come to learn from me in Bali sometime'. So, after 2 years, she rocks on up there, without the least thought that maybe, JUST MAYBE, he might have forgotten who she was. Because no, obviously a mind so perceptive, a spirit so pure, a face so dazzling, could not possibly be forgotten. JESUS CHRIST WOMAN.
Aaaanyway. Where was I? So I suppose I can wrap this post up with a brief account of what I got up to tonight. Headed out with 2 other girls I met, and we ended up in this gay/lesbian bar. The head waitress took a shine to me, and as soon as we walked in said "are you here to pull tonight?" [throaty, bawdy chortle]. We had some pastis, went to pay, and: "Where are you going? You should stay! It's early!". I explained we had no money left, and she said "It doesn't matter! You can pay with your body..." [raucous chortle]. We left, but not before she insisted on kissing my hand. Mkay!

I stopped off at Marcel's, comme d'habitude, and cycled home. As I was putting my bike away, I noticed a guy standing there in the dark listening to music, with bleached blonde hair and a pork pie hat. We greeted each other, and he said he was heading out, but he didn't know where, because he didn;t have any friends. Then we got talking about the pressure and social responsibility of actually having friends, and how we didn't really mind being alone. I sat down for a bit by the bike cage and we finished smoking the end of a spliff he had, whilst listening to some old French classics on his music player thing (how old am I??). I began to think he was slightly and endearingly odd, and here are the reasons why:
  • He kept stroking my arm and hair and saying I was pretty
  • He was delighted that I knew 'Highway to Hell' when it came on (ummm...doesn;t everyone? Maybe not in France?)
  • He loved it when I said (can't remember context) "We aren't limited by anything at all, not even our own universe" (fairly throwaway bullshitty phrase, no?)
  • He kept muttering "What can I do tonight? Who can I see? No one. And I am happy about that."
  • He clung to my arm and said "No! NO!" when I said I had to leave, but also refused to exchange numbers because he said he "didn't want the social pressure of having to get in touch with someone, and anyway, I believe what happens happens in an evening, and doesn't neccessarily have to be a continued thing". I totally got him, and was relieved by that!
Anyway, it made me think: we need to be open to the idea of people not neccessarily acting the way society has deemed normal, or talking about acceptable things, because I can understand where these people are coming from, because my basic instinct is to be similar to them, it's just I have pretty good social intuition and feel more pressure to conform than they do. 'Normal' people are very simply conformists. If we weren't concerned with conforming, we'd all be out and about punching people in the teeth, not speaking to anyone else for days, and sleeping with our best friend's boyfriend. How refreshing to be able to spend these fleeting ephemeral moments with people though. How sad but wonderful at the same time, to remember how different we all are, and yet how similar in our foibles and insecurities. And let us do away with those who judge these people, less 'normal' than the norm. Do away with the people who would mutter a quick 'bonsoir' and then scuttle off into their rooms, especially people our age. Because how desperately sad, that you prefer the comfort and safety of those banal 'around a beer' conversations about "my first impressions of France" and "what I studied at university, and how it makes me better than you", than the wonderful ideas you can get from those who are just ever so slightly 'unhinged'.

Now, I must go to bed. And resist the urge to cook more food beforehand.


  1. Thanks for the book review, it confirms my gut instinct to never read something entitled 'Eat, Pray, Love'. Bet Oprah was ALL OVER it!

    And good for you on the Algerians! I have taken to being rude and glarey when they (not necessarily Algerians) hit on me in the street etc., but perhaps I need to up it to shouting and clicking level :)

  2. Sounds like Marcel is a pretty cool guy to hang out!

    And haha. Quite an experience at the lesbian bar I'd imagine.