Thursday, 7 October 2010

Bethune, Lille...and thank god I have some British friends!

I have now officially been in France for a week. And time has gone quickly! But then at the same time, quite a lot has happened in a short space of time. I feel a bit more settled now, although every third word that comes out of my mouth is 'pardon?'. I fear this will be a long post, and I apologise in advance. (I don't expect everyone to last the distance. Although Mum and Dad, as my parents I feel that you're sort of morally obliged to be interested in the whole thing. Sorry)

So on Tuesday I decided to venture out of my little factory-centered town and head to Bethune. Not the liveliest of towns either, but definitely a bit more going on than in Lillers. I pottered around my apartment for a bit then left at about 3pm. I thought maybe I should have gone earlier, but I needn't have worried, as it appears that it doesn't take long to exhaust what Bethune has to offer in the 'casual wandering' department either. It wasn't massively exciting. Although I did nearly get run over on a zebra crossing (as is expected in France. I shall almost be disappointed if I leave this country unscathed!). However I'm not going to complain, there is more to do than in Lillers! The more people that ask where I live, the funnier it seems to be to them. As if I have been placed here as a joke. When my landlady asks what I've been up to in the town I try not to jest about it too much. I fear that, as she lives here permanently, it may not be a well-received joke. I feel that the ch'ti people know their town's shit, but as an outsider, especially as an 'anglaise', it is not my place to say.

After spending some money in Pimkie (on some boots which caused me much pain the next day! I fear I may need my big toe amputated. However, I have failed to take out any insurance. So I should wait til I'm back in England for any sort of medical procedure. Or say that I did it at school and make the french government pay for my poor choice in footwear)....anyway, after that I met up with another assistant called Hannah in a cafe. We chatted for a few hours (longer than originally planned as I failed at correctly reading a train timetable. Not the french bit...the numbers.) and got on really well. So I now have at least 1 friend in France! It was nice to speak english and to chat to someone who is having the same sort of experience as me. The train journey to Bethune was really quick (8 mins!) and I even worked out how to 'composter' my ticket. I have finally worked out the french rail system. Although, rest assured, it's shit. What's that you say? The ticket office is closed so I must buy my ticket from a machine, but the machines only accept payment via mastercard and visa card? Marvellous! Let's introduce it at the next European Commission!
This trip to Bethune, and the success with which I have used the train, has made me think about maybe moving to Bethune. More going on, easy commute (although given, not as easy as walking to the school), friends nearby. I may consider it.

Yesterday I went to Lille for the meeting for all the assistants in the region. I met Luisaidh at Bethune station (Mum I can see you screwing up your face trying to process that. Just read it as 'LUCY'. Luisaidh if you're reading this...I can only apologise). We dithered for a few minutes. In hindsight, these were very valuable minutes in which we should have contemplated queuing. We then met Hannah as well and attempted to buy tickets. We had the aforementioned problem with the ticket machine, so had to queue to be served by an actual person. This is something I try to avoid early-morning in France, and I may need to engage in some actual conversation. In french. We would have had time to get tickets and get on our train if the ticket lady wasn't working at the slowest pace humanly possible. I'd like to point out that in England I probably would have had time to get my ticket, buy a coffee and do a little dance on the platform before my train rolled in. As it happens, we missed the train. Bugger. So we waited for the next one, got on the metro and found the Lycee (after asking for directions and clinging on to the GCSE-level french words that we recognised ('escaliers? We need to look for stairs!'). We also walked in about half an hour later. But appears that all we missed was some incredibly dull information in french.

There was much confusion during this info session. I'm sure I've had all this information several times before (although granted, that still doesn't mean I understand how to apply for 'securite sociale'). And then there was much that we either a) didn't understand or b) tried not to listen to. From what I gather, if you need a visa then don't bother coming, it's too complicated. And if you still feel you need to come, then ask questions about your visa another time, when there isn't a room of 400 hungry people waiting for you to finish so they can eat lunch. I shan't describe lunch. It was horrible. All 4 courses. When a coffe yoghurt is the highlight of a meal, you know you've made poor choices.

We then had a bit of a gander round Lille. It seems very nice from what I saw of it. Definitely somewhere to return one weekend. I did notice there's a Sephora there though, so that could probably do some damage to my debit card if I visit too often! Luisaidh then had to go back and Hannah and I got something to eat (and a cup of Tetley tea!) at Eurolille, and then buggered off back home. I had to board the train back to Lillers ticket-less due to the aforementioned shit-ness of the ticket system, but no one checked so I was fine. It was really nice meeting other assistants, I saw Suzie (who I did my A level french with) and Luisaidh and Hannah are really lovely. I think it's lucky to get on so well with people that you have randomly met and grouped together with. I do find it odd calling someone else Hannah though. Apparently it was a popular name that year.

Today I sat in on 3 lessons. One was fairlyyyyy boring. I sat there and watched the class painfully answering questions, but the other's were fine. My 'seconde' class was quite lively, and the teacher told me she had forewarned the boys that I was 'absolutely charming' so they wouldn't get too over-excited! All a bit akward at times really. The other day I was asked 'do you like Asia?'. I thought the student had made a mistake. It appeared not, so I just answered to the best of my ability. And earlier I got 'do you smoke?' Also odd. And they laughed when I said no.

Well I feel I should leave this post there as it is HUGE. I was going to add in the oh-so-exciting photos I took, but that will only add to the size of the post. So maybe tomorrow! I'm also going to attempt to succesfully use the post office tomorrow. I have no doubt that it will be an horrific experience.

A demain!
Low-point of the day: I did my laundry in my landlady's washing machine today (I have never seen a washing machine like it before) and clearly made a laundry faux-pas. Everything I own is now blue. Brilliant. I shall forever look like a smurf-sympathiser.

Highlight of the day: Purchasing heart-shaped sugar cubes.


  1. Heart shaped-sugar cubes????? Woooowwww!! Thats incredible. Glad your settling in more, speak to you soon!
    Kim xxxx

  2. I really enjoy reading your posts :)
    It's so exciting reading those "my year in an other country"-blogs :)
    All the best,

  3. @Kim: I know, I was so excited! I think they're to do with some tv character (you know like when you get Hannah Montana spaghetti shapes?), but I didn't really know!

    @TheLaughingPrincess: Thanks very much, I'm glad I'm entertaining someone! xxx

  4. Hey,
    Me again...Sorry if i look a lil' bit intrusive...
    You're right, you need to go back to Lille often ;)
    How's class going so far? I know here, students are laughing at me with no fuckin reason, I dunno...teenagers...dumb age I suppose...
    I hope you're going to be more settled in the Lycée and that you will have fun times, even if one of the teacher sound to be a real prick...
    Hang on!
    It's good for you to meet people of your age...
    Man, here,in Minneapolis I've waited 1 month before meeting such kind of people...

  5. Come across your blog while trying to find info on how to get from Lille or Calais to Bethune - I mean the least expensive way. Just can't find any such information. Like your blog, nice and friendly.

    Can one hire a cycle? Supppose I could bring one. Is it reasonably safe? As you mentioned you nearly coppped it on a crossing
    so I am apprehensive?

    I really just want to visit the Bethune area such Festubert, and Givenchy (researching family
    departed WW1, then you guessed)
    I can travel to France by Ferry of Eurostar
    but then how do I get to Bethune?

    Any suggestions? (helpful ones)

    Would be much appreciated Thanks


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