By the time we leave Australia, I am starting to feel less of a foreigner. I can understand most of what people are saying and know what to do in a restaurant or a bar. OK, so I still can’t recognise the coins but Relationnel is looking after that most of the time anyway. We arrive back in Paris on Sunday, after a 13-hour flight from Hong Kong, one suitcase less, six kilos heavier between us (4:2 in my favour of course), tired and frazzled.
Outside, it’s cold and rainy. As we come back from the airport in a taxi, I try to imagine an Australian arriving in Paris for the first time. What would they think of all that mournful suburbia on either side of the motorway? We arrive from the north, of course, and even though the buildings become more Parisian and less ethnic as we near the centre, the empty Sunday streets are hardly enticing.
We climb the four flights of stairs to the apartment and open the door to the living room. The balcony renovation is not finished. We didn’t expect it to be, but the gloomy day is made even worse by the scaffolding in front of the windows. Not to mention the layer of stone dust. We put down our single suitcase and wade through the mound of mail including 30 copies of Le Monde, buoyed up by a couple of colourful postcards but depressed by the bills.
The fridge is empty so I add a bottle of sancerre and we set out for the Saint Eustache market in the rain. We cheer ourselves up by buying our favourite spéciales oysters and fill the shopping trolley with vegetables and chasselas grapes which are the only fruit we eat from September to November. I then go and buy yoghurt, fromage blanc and butter from the little supermarket while Relationnel takes the heavy trolley back home and up the stairs.
After delecting the oysters, we crawl into bed for the rest of the afternoon, emerging about 6 pm in a jetlag daze. It’s 3 am in Australia, the worst time for waking up. I still feel lightheaded – you know that sort of spaced out feeling when you first arrive after so many hours of travelling. Relationnel busies himself putting things away and doing things at the computer, annoyingly chirpy, while I recline hopelessly on the sofa incapable of doing anything except look at my iPhone from time to time.
We have a light dinner of fresh plaice and spinach and I try desperately to stay awake until 8.30. Amazingly, I sleep until 6.30 next morning, admittedly with a few wakings but I manage to go back to sleep each time. It’s depressingly dark and still rainy but the jetlag haze seems to have cleared.
After reading my emails and checking out my Facebook and Twitter accounts :), I start the urgent translation due that day (my clients very nicely waited until I came back from holidays instead of getting someone else – there’s nothing worse than getting back from 5 weeks’ holiday and having no work). At 8 am, I hear the first workers arrive on the scaffolding.
“It’s not so bad. I can put up with this”, I think, until they turn on the radio. Loudly. A woman’s voice appears and there is loud discussion. I can hear every word they’re saying. A drill starts, followed by hammering. My concentration disappears completely. How can I possibly come up with advertising material for anti-aging cosmetics with this in background? It’s depressing enough to know that I never remember to use any of these miraculous products.
When Relationnel comes home at lunchtime, I tell him that I am definitely going to Blois next day. But I hum and ha all evening because I really don’t want to go there by myself for a week. Next morning, I get up at 6.30 again (hoping this won’t become a habit – it’s dark outside) thinking I might stay in Paris after all. At 8 am, the workers arrive and I buy an on-line ticket for the 12.38 train. The only thing that consoles me is that my friend Françoise is picking me up at the station.