Friday, September 16, 2011

The tarte flambée club and the hypochondriac's guide to self-healing

For about 4 or 5 years now, I have sporadically yet regularly woken to find my face afflicted by a beast of a blemish. There is only ever one of them, about every 1-2 months. The thing starts as a tingle, and then over the course of a few hours, develops into a massive, subterranean welt - albeit an easily disguisable by make-up, welt. It hovers there, an angry looking lump, with no head to pop, no visible orifice from which to squeeze what I assume is a wealth of pungent pus just waiting to be let out. The thing gets massive, maybe the size of a kidney bean, and can take up to two weeks to disappear. It reacts to nothing, no product is mighty enough to shift its weighty presence. From my frantic internet searches, I can only assume it is a form of cystic acne, although because of its only occasional appearances, I don't consider it to be something worth worrying too much about.

Except that now, as a fully-functioning member of French society, I am entitled to go and see a doctor and get reimbursed. I did consider this. I wonder how pissed off doctors get when these days you waltz into the clinic, make yourself comfortable, and say: "Right, well in my opinion it seems to be a sort of cystic acne, possible nodular although I'm not sure it reaches the stage where it could be considered nodular in the strict sense of the condition, per se..." I thought about making a trip to the dermatologue, since many French women just casually slip into the dermotologist's every now and then for an acid face peel or for a consultation because they're worried about a few blackheads around their nose, and have no qualms about getting reimbursed by the state for this, because let's face it, how your skin looks can be possibly considered taking care of your mental health. However, true to the general character of my weak-chinned and thin-blooded nation, I displayed a certain level of foolish stoicism, and proceeded to cure myself of the affliction on my own. I mean, once you start going to the dermatologist for stuff like this, what comes next? Buying a poodle and getting it's hair chemically straightened once a week at the local pooch parlour? Making appointments to see my nutriotionist because of a potential wheat imbalance? Checking myself into spas to 'deal with my stress' (which is apparantly, again, reimbursed by the sate, if you have been sent to said spa by your GP). No!
I cured my subcutaneous chaperone by using a clay mask on it 3 times a day (just that part of skin, too drying for the rest), and then icing it until I felt like I only had half a face. It's taken about three days, but is definitely on it's way out now. Hope you enjoyed your holiday ON MY FACE. Now get your shit together, and GEDDOUT!

Anyway, in other exciting news...last night I decided on an impulse to join a few other people in the residence on an impromptu trip to the student restaurant for some tartes flambées. (Aside note: My diet over the past 2 weeks has consisted of variations on these basic ingredients:
  • lardons
  • cheese
  • cream
I've made carbonara (pasta), eaten it on tartes flambees (dough) and have made a stellar tartiflette, without the help of an oven (potato). I have basically eaten these ingredients with almost every carbohydrate known to man.)
I wasn't sure whether I really wanted to go to this thing. I envisaged a group of 19 year-olds, fresh-faced and eager, and myself, 24, cyst-faced and jaded. I made some sugared popcorn to help myself decide. I burnt the popcorn, and took that as a sign. I stepped out of the studio, locked the door, walked down the corridor, and there in front of me, lay one of those little foam armchairs that fold out into a mattress. On it, was taped a piece of paper with the words: 'A prendre'. What unbelievable luck, I thought to myself. What a stroke of good grace, a sign from God himself, for this sort of fruitful twist of fate rarely happens to me. Although, as Vatti would point out - it's that sort of negative thinking that MAKES it not happen to me. Like a furtive, spritely little crab, I grabbed it, and scuttled back to my room. Leaving the room, take 2. This time, I made it down the stairs, saw several people clustered around the post boxes, and said "Is this the tarte flambee club?", and so the evening began.

They took the tram whilst I cycled in, and MAN is biking faster than public transport. I was there a good 15 minutes before they arrived. After a slight kerfuffle over paying methods (to use the student restaurant, subsidised by the government, of which there are many in Strasbourg, you need to pay using your 'top up' student card. Me and two of the others don't have ours yet, so there was some exchanging of money and logistical ponderings, before we walked through the spinning glass door of the RU). Allow me to mention just how great these student restaurants are. Here in Strasbourg, you get a three-course meal for €3.05. That's including a salad, a hot main course, a dessert, some cheese and a drink. Just brilliant. We decided to go for the deal of the day, which was a pitcher of beer and a tarte flambee for €5. The guy who had organised this meet-up is the sort of person who always inspires awe in me, simply due to his generosity of the spirit. I'm sure everyone has met a few people like this: this guy, let's call him P, has no need of new friends, having been born here, and yet took the time out to set this up for all the lost souls in the residence, and spent the rest of the evening making sure everyone was alright, and feeling part of the group, and had been engaged in the conversation. I admire those people, because for whatever reason (Insecurity? Shyness? A lack of social charisma? Laziness?) most of us do not quite go to the same extent. It was interesting to meet this guy, because despite having been born here and being, for all intents and purposes, French, his mother is English and his father American, so he is bilingual, and, like me,  only returned to England as an adult to do is undergraduate degree. It meant we had a lot to discuss, and I felt like he understood where I was coming from. Like me, he had also spent a good few years 'fucking around' before starting his Masters, in various ways, although I'm not sure he ever told me doing what, exactly.

After we'd eaten and downed a bladder-bursting amount of beer, they got back on the tram to the residence, and I cycled off to make a pit stop at Marcel's. He brought out a bottle of wine I had left there last weekend and had neglected to finish, and we sat under a tree, having a right old merry laugh, as I swigged down the wine, almost cutting my mouth on the metallic plastic that was still around the neck (charming - face cysts, and a cut mouth. Any takers?), and I felt so happy in that moment, like I was beginning to find a place here, as I cycled  slalomed my way home, almost slamming into an unfortunately positioned traffic cone, before sauntering up to my bed and falling into a blissful sleep.

P.S.: I decided to be all ecological and order school copy books off the internet from some green company who sell really cheap, recycled stationary. Perfect. Except it took 13 days to come, as opposed to the promised 5, and when it did, I only had one copy book instead of 5 (although this single book came in an absolutely HUGE cardboard box. 'Green', hmm?), with a hand-written note attached saying "Sorry! We ran out...". The note was signed with a red rubber stamp of a heart. Well, thanks for the love, but if you want me to save the bloody planet, you better make it easy for me to do so, because otherwise I am going STRAIGHT out there, back to my consumerist, capitalist ways, to purchase stationary of the nice, shiny, bleached, freshly-stripped-from-the-tree, took-10-days-in-a-plane variety.


  1. I am so going to enjoy the Strasbourg diet. Mmm.... Must try to eat healthy before visiting you so I don't feel too guilty ;-)

    Also, sweet find with the chair!

  2. No, I don't think they do have spaetzle for sale here? Maybe we could do some kind of exchange, spaetzle for Nougat de Tours or something ( - disclaimer, I've never actually eaten Nougat de Tours, it sounds kind of gross if you ask me)

  3. Please can we have a photo of the bike?

  4. Cystic acne is the worse!!! There is absolutely nothing you can do about it except go to a derm. Mine in NY used to give me injections of cortozone and the zit would be gone in 1 day! Besides being ugly, those buggers hurt too!

    Hope your 'friend' is gone by now. : )