Monday, 5 December 2011

Yeah I'm still in France...

Let's have a moment of honesty. Hands up who thought I'd still be in France by 5th December? Did anyone genuinely think I'd have stuck it out as long as I have? In all truthfulness, I really did think I'd have packed it all in by now. Particularly after spending a week in my beloved Newcastle- gossiping in Nando's with my sister and rolling around the city dressed as a less-than-convincing Amy Winehouse with my best friends- I wasn't entirely convinced I'd be able to bring myself to get back on the hundred trains necessary to get me back to France, but I did it and I have surprised even myself with how well I'm coping this time around.

While admittedly it's been only a month since I last blogged about my experiences abroad, it does feel (thankfully) that quite a lot has gone on. The last time we spoke, let's face it, I wasn't having the best time of it here in L'Hexagone. María and myself were living in what came to be known as "the dungeon" in the rural town of La Ferté Bernard, where I was spending every day in McDonald's to get online. No disrespect to La Ferté Bernard, it is a beautiful town and the people there are so pleasant it's practically criminal, but it was not for me.

I'm pleased to report that since then I've moved into my own studio apartment. which is conveniently placed less than a minute from the train station which means that I can roll right out of bed and onto the train. This is less than brilliant news for the students I teach at 8am who are faced with a perfect mix of Edward Scissorhands and a disheveled Marge Simpson leading them in a discussion in a foreign language. The stuff nightmares are made of.

Speaking of which, in my last "year abroad" blog post I had been taking classes for just a couple of weeks. I'm now fully in the swing of things and can say with some confidence that I am one of the worst educators in the history of the world. Each time I step into that classroom I start channeling Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Since becoming a language assistant I have so far told one of my students that I was "worried to go flat-hunting on Saturday morning because I know I'll be hungover" and announced to another student that he had to stop playing with a pair of scissors because "sharp items in my classroom are not a good idea when Britney Spears is in Newcastle and I am in La Ferté Bernard".

"Do you want to collect our sheets in?" a bright-eyed student asked me one Friday morning as the bell sounded.
"Whatever," I replied, hurtling out of the door faster than any of my students.

My students range from the wonderfully enthusiastic to the kids who couldn't be loss hostile if they were to greet me by grabbing me by my hair and smashing my face against the chalkboard. At one point last week, when met with the problem of a student who shook his head at me as I tried to explain something or other in English and then proceeded to put his head on the desk, I did flip my lid and ended up hollering "I CAN PROMISE YOU NO ONE WANTS THE LESSON TO END MORE THAN ME BUT I CAN'T GO ANYWHERE SO IF I'M GOING TO STAY HERE AND TEACH YOU HAVE TO STAY HERE AND LISTEN" in garbled French like a crazy person.

I do feel somewhat like I'm making progress with my French, though I have surrendered to the fact I will never have a decent French accent and will always dress people in a different language with the same Geordie accent I speak English in. One thing I've learned is that my French is a lot better if I just let it flow rather than trying to rehearse speeches in the supermarket or the post office. I'm very slowly getting to know some French people (I even went on a date with a French boy-- which was worth alone leaving Hebburn for), and actually finding myself suitably able to express myself which is decent.

Living in Le Mans has been a re-assuring experience for myself on a personal level, as well. This being my first time away from home it's a comfort to know that I'm not the world's most useless person and that I can look after myself to a suitable degree (let's just ignore the fact I've been to McDonald's three times this week in as many days), and I do feel much more confident in myself which is brilliant as well.

I apologise for not blogging as much about my year abroad, or indeed anything else, but finally being in the same city as all the other mint people I've met here means I'd much rather be out living my life here while I can rather than sitting around writing about it. I'm sure you understand.

I'll leave you with some photos of assorted shenanigans that have happened since I last updated:

María's housewarming. She lives above a gaybar with rainbows painted on the side so everyone wore a different colour of the rainbow. I dressed demurely for the occasion.

Harriet striking a pose she very rarely does. Also in the picture are Dave, Laura and Emily. And some homo.

At Liz's for Thanksgiving. She is not in the picture, and neither is the leopard print bow tie I wore in honour of the celebration. Festive.

Me "pretending" to shag Jenni up the arse. Later that night I wandered the streets at 5.30 and ended up sharing a room with a copulating Castilian couple. Dysfunctional is the word.

Me and some of the girls. Liz looks like she's not stopping. Later that night I got off my face and felt up about 80% of the straight men in our party. I fell over on the way home and was so hungover the next day I couldn't take my sunglasses off. I also felt a large proportion of the next day trying to find the source of the vomit smell in my flat. It turned out it was coming from my vest top :(

I believe this is the only picture which exists of Nik and myself. He is sick and should be studied.

This hug was so enjoyable I demanded a photo be taken of it.

A bientôt
Remember, you are literally much better off following me on Twitter these days, I update that all the time because it's not blocked in the staff room.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup.

I keep starting blogs about my year abroad, but weirdly for someone who spends a good 75% of my time talking at people about myself, I find it difficult to sit down and write about what's going on. Since my last Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup not a lot has changed here in Le Mans, but quite a bit has gone on in the world of celebrities so why don't I talk about all that for now and then we'll see if I have anything half as interesting to say about myself at a later date, oui? Oui...

1. Rihanna wears a naughty shoe which if we're all being honest no one could give a fuck about.

OK so to truly understand this story we're going to have to hop in the time machines in our mind to this time last year, when Rihanna appeared on The X Factor final to perform what was then her new single, which we came to know as What's My Name? a song asking someone what your name is while they're performing oral sex on you, although realistically with a mouthful of labia it's quite difficult to form the phonemes necessary to convey the word "Rihanna" which is probably why she repeats "what's my name?" so many times during the song.


In the 12 months that followed, practically every time Rihanna's name was mentioned in the Daily Mail the article concluded with "the Bajan pop princess caused a stir with a saucy/racy (delete as applicable) performance alongside Christina Aguilera at last year's final". If you don't believe me you can look through their archives for yourself.

Therefore when it was revealed that Rihanna would be making a return to the X Factor stage, this time to perform her Calvin Harris-produced single We Found Love (without that dead weight Matt Cardle hanging around) people were eager to see if she'd be making a similar controversy. What would she be wearing? What would she be doing? Would she mention last year's controversy?

As it turns out it was a pretty bog-standard performance, she came out dressed like a pack of shortbread, didn't even bother to pretend she was singing live for most of the song and reminded everyone her album would be out this week. And then she disappeared. Controversy-free. Or so it seemed...

You see Rihanna had a secret message slyly written on the side of one of her shoes, the simply message "fuck off". Nice. Naturally people are now pretending this has caused a giant stir with loads of people being offended, although actually when the performance was first aired nobody even noticed and therefore no one gave a shit and therefore (yes I said therefore twice WHAT OF IT?) the whole thing is a heap of shite. And now I'm repeating it and further spreading the shite.

Let's have a round of applause for celebrity blogging, everyone...

2. One Direction are feeling especially modest about their most recent single release.

The good thing about Twitter is that it really allows fans to get closer to the artists they love and admire. More importantly, it gives the artists themselves the chance to give fans an intimate look at their lives that they might not get to see otherwise. It allows the artist to show other sides to their character. For example, for all of their tomfoolery on stage, Twitter really shows the softer, more modest side to the boys of One Direction.

Of the One Direction (or 1D as the cool kids call them) lads, Liam Payne and Niall Horan are probably the two that tweet the most (the others are probably off buying chinos in bulk) but despite the fact that their latest single Gotta Be You was brand new on iTunes this week, thankfully Liam and Niall didn't let it dominate their Twitter feeds...

And it's certainly a relief to see, on a social networking site like Twitter, that the boys of One Direction have their feet firmly on the ground and still have it lodged firmly in their heads that as a group who came third on The X Factor they're lucky to have any chart success they can get...

What's really good to know is that the boys have stayed humble regardless of the "rollercoaster ride" they've been on the past 12 months, and are grateful for any chart success they can get. In fact it's clear when reading the boys' Twitter feeds that success isn't what drives them, and chart positions aren't really important-- they're clearly humbled by the fact that even esteemed pop acts such as Robyn and Nicola Roberts' most recent singles peaked at 55 and 40 respectively, so as long as they're making people happy who cares about the charts...

Gotta Be You, if you're interested, debuted at number 3 on Sunday.


3. Prepare yourself for this one, folks.

If you thought that Christmas was about joy and merriment, then you can think abloodygain, OK???? Lady GaGa has arrived with her new EP A Very GaGa Holiday and she's here to remind you what Christmas is all about-- her VERY SERIOUS, self-indulgent jazz inspired vocals, of course!

Because every now and then Lady GaGa needs to remind us that even though her entire first album was based around embracing the shallow side of life and her desperation to be famous for at the very least the 15 minutes Andy Warhol promised her, she's actually also a very serious, artiste and musician. That's why she's chosen to debut this cover of festive classic White Christmas but with a twist.

To prove her skills as a songwriter, she's also decided that the festive classic that's been passed down across generations is actually not long enough for her so rather than do what, you know, EVERYONE HAS DONE SINCE THE SONG WAS FIRST PERFORMED and sing the verse again, she's actually written her own piss-poor lyrics. If you're wondering what provoked her to do that, then you're in luck because during an instrumental middle 8, GaGa addresses the listener directly. It's as if she knew that we'd all be wondering "what the fuck was she thinking?"

" you can tell I'm very outgoing", she explains over a horn solo, "And a little bit shy...BUT I DECIDED that this song is just too short". She then goes on to perform a second verse where she longs for a "white snowman". I'm not entirely sure what comes next because I could feel my blood pressure soaring with rage and thought it best to turn the song off (still it could have been worse, if she'd got her hands on "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and added some extra verses we'd end up with 14 Beautiful People Just Being Themselves As God Intended or, more likely, 13 Bumlords Bumming)

If you'd like to listen to GaGa's laborious cover of White Christmas, and frankly after that glowing review why wouldn't you, here it is:

I can't be the only person who thought of this Family Guy moment as soon as I heard her sing "whhhhhite Christmas" for the first time...?

"Why are you putting so much emphasis on the 'h'?"

As if the whole thing wasn't ridiculous and pretentious enough, let's remind ourselves of the last time Lady GaGa did a Christmas song, shall we..?

The times have truly changed.

C'est tout.
A bientôt!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup.

I'm sorry my blogging is so infrequent these days, I'm busy running around pretending to know what I'm doing in front of classes of French teenagers, making to-do lists and not doing a thing on them and MOST IMPORTANTLY waking up on Saturday mornings knowing full well I have been sick somewhere in my flat but having no idea where.

It's not just me that's been all engines go, though. Just because celebrities aren't running around (read: dossing about) on their year abroad doesn't mean they aren't up to stuff. Here is some of that stuff in an all new Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup...

1. Some kid makes a prick of himself on American X Factor.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like the American X Factor is trudging along with no one paying the blindest bit of interest. Between that and the reportedly falling ratings for the UK series (coupled with the fact no one seems to give a fuck who wins this year), it wouldn’t be an outrageous claim that Simon Cowell may be a tad nervous for the future of the brand he’s put everything he’s got into.

Thankfully, there was (finally!) a bit of interest in the American series this week, courtesy of teenage rapper Astro (not to be confused with the dog off The Jetsons). Despite being one of the critics’ favourites, the 14-year-old had the misfortune of finding himself in the bottom two this week following a performance of Sting’s Every Breath You Take which prompted judge L.A. Reid to tell him that he has more maturity than some of the older contestants.

What L.A. Reid was not aware of was that when Astro found out that he was one of the acts in the bottom two that week that he would throw all of his toys out of the pram and essentially tell the audience they weren't worthy of listening to him perform. Initially he came out, and told the audience to a shower of boos that he didn’t feel it was "necessary" for him to “sing for survival”. And they said Cher Lloyd was an X Factor brat...

Simon went on to ask why he initially didn’t want to perform, to which Astro (real name Brian- LOL) said he didn’t want to perform for an audience of people who obviously didn’t want him there. Simon then told Astro t

o “think of his mother watching”, which is the best way to shame a 14-year-old boy into doing anything, although despite his stinking attitude he ended up being saved by three of the four judges meaning he goes on to rap another day.

Let’s remind ourselves of one of the best rap performances we’ve ever seen on a Simon Cowell show:

And one of the worst:


2. Chantelle Houghton is up the duff.

This one literally writes itself.

After a series of very public failed relationships with Preston off the Ordinary Boys and then Rav Wilding (who famously called the paparazzi to photograph a romantic picnic he'd planned for her only to start screaming at her and reducing her to tears in front of the UK's media photographers), Chantelle Houghton has finally been given a visit by the stork. And who’s the lucky man who’s spunked up in her? It’s bloody well only her bloody fiancé Alex bloody Reid isn’t it? Yes it is.

The two reality stars, who have both won Celebrity Big Brother in the past, got engaged last month after Alex proposed to her live on air, which is all well and good except he’s not technically divorced from Katie Price (the only person on earth with bigger jugs than the aforementioned Rav Wilding’s) which means that it could well be time to SOUND THE BIGAMY SIREN.

Katie and Alex split up last year among rumours that Katie was uncomfortable with Alex for wanting to be famous in his own right, as well as reports that she would ridicule him for being unable to get her pregnant and that he was fat.

The couple had been told by doctors they would not be able to conceive naturally, and Chantelle told OK! magazine that they were in fact just days away from starting IVF treatments. Chantelle claims that she had all of the hormones in her fridge ready to get started, although apparently she destroyed them by putting them too far back in the fridge and freezing them.


I look forward to what Katie Price will be pulling from up her sleeve next to steal their thunder.

3. Lady GaGa gets ready to marry the night. No word yet on whether it's a church service or a registry office job.

You might have seen Lady GaGa on last week’s X Factor performing her new single Marry The Night (One Direction were also there but the chances are unless you’re a teenage girl at the height of your frenzied sexual awakening you didn’t even pay them any attention). The song is a high-energy dance number about leaving your inhibitions behind and surrendering to the night time, so in a completely logical bit of staging GaGa performed the song dressed as a decapitated woman holding her own head in a confessional box.

If you missed the performance, you can watch it here:

What a daft bitch.

Anyway the other day Lady GaGa tweeted that because her fans had been so supportive of her performances of Marry The Night so far (and there were a lot of them, not surprising since Yoü and I peaked at 23 in the UK charts) that she’d be revealing a preview of her upcoming video entitled “Marry The Night: The Prelude Pathétique” (it’s gotten to the stage of pretentiousness now where even the previews of her music videos need names). She later clarified that she’d only be publishing a minute and a half of the preview. Apparently the full preview lasts 7 minutes and the video itself is her longest day to date.

Longer than Ale-ale-bloody-jandro-ale-ale-oh-my-god-this-is-going-on-forever-andro? Longer than Tele-what-the-fuck-is-even-going-on-you-were-in-prison-five-minutes-ago-and-suddenly-youre-making-a-cyanide-laced-sandwich-in-a-diner-with-Beyoncé-phone? Really? REALLY THOUGH?

GaGa eventually revealed the preview (which is essentially a preview of a preview) this Thursday, in which is seen being dragged around what appears to be a mental institution by two nurses. GaGa herself narrates over the top with the opening line: “when I look back on my life it’s not that I don’t want to see things exactly as they happened”. She then goes on to claim that she’s filled in the “ugly” holes in her memory to make them “beautiful” again.

For once I’m with GaGa on this one. For example, I was out in Le Mans with my new aren’t-we-fantastic-we’re-on-our-year-abroad mates and ended up drinking too much and essentially feeling up every heterosexual male in the bar. When I look back on that night, I prefer to think of us all drinking brandy, playing billiards and maybe shooting a pheasant rather than them cowering in a corner rocking backwards and forwards wishing not so much they’d never come to France as much as that they’d never been born, while I invite them all back to my studio apartment to enter me. According to Lady GaGa choosing to live in this alternate universe makes me an artist. I belive her.

You can watch “Marry The Night: The Prelude Pathétique” right this second right here if you want. There is not a second’s worth of music in it which seems slightly unusual for a music video:

For the record if this isn’t the world’s worst bum-number than I think it’s going to be her best music video yet.

That's it.
A bientôt!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup.

I know I shouldn't have kept you waiting.
But I'm here now.

What would you know? I've been in France for more than six weeks now and I finally have Internet in my flat. I'll fill you all in on what I've been up to soon, but first I think it's time to get back to doing what I do best (which is evidently not teaching English, being in any way hands-on when it comes to making decisions about my own life or, indeed, talking to Southern people about anything besides Newcastle).

Let's slag some famous people off for no good reason in yet another Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup...

1. Frankie Cocozza has, once and for all, proved himself to be a massive, massive twat.

So, as you know, I’ve been out of the country for some time meaning my coverage of this year’s X Factor has been rather sparse. In fact, I’ve felt rather out of the loop about the whole thing, relying solely on Twitter and the word of my nutty parents to give me the scoop on which contestants are doing well and which are disgracing themselves and, indeed, the entire nation.

Week after week, though, I was appalled to learn that the British public were voting to keep that massive bellend Frankie Cocozza in the country. You might recall when Frankie first auditioned for the competition, I took an immediate dislike to him largely because he described himself as “mental” and got his arse out for the entire nation before he’d even sung a note. Poor old Justin Bieber sings a few OK songs and becomes a figure of hate while Frankie Cocozza pulls down his miserable Calvins to show his pathetic anus off to the nation and gets a fast-track to his fifteen minutes of fame. Ridiculous.

As this year’s competition trudged along (let’s be honest, this has been the worst year since Leon Jackson won and even that had Sharon Osbourne’s very public dispute with Dannii Minogue to keep us all entertained) it seems Frankie’s “antics” (*vomits*) have become even more controversial with reports that he has been shagging girls left, right and centre. He even stirred up controversy when he announced on The Xtra Factor that he had “banged” one of the Geordie Shore lasses, which is a bit like telling people you’ve been to Majorca for your summer holidays; I’m sure you had a great time and everything but so did a thousand other people.

So anyway, in a SENSATIONAL twist, it was announced earlier this week that Frankie ahs been SENSATIONALLY kicked off the show in what can only be described as a giant SENSATION. According to an official statement from the show, Frankie had broken a “golden rule” of the show. At first I thought the “golden rule” must have involved being a giant, giant bell-end but that would also have meant an automatic elimination for Janet Devlin and, indeed, the entire judging panel so that can’t have been it.

Rumours then began to circulate that Frankie had been bragging backstage that he’d been snorting cocaine just hours after being told by rock god Louis Walsh that he is “not a rockstar” and “never will be”. Frankie then took to his Twitter to defend himself with the following tweet:

Let’s face it, that’s a bit of a pathetic statement, isn’t it? A bit like being dumped by someone and then putting “WHATEVS NEVA FANCIED U ANYWAY MATE” as your Facebook status, isn’t it?

As for using The X Factor as a start, it’s pleasing to see that Frankie will not let this affect his journey and will be keeping his eyes on the prize. LOL JK WHICH REALITY SHOW DO WE THINK FRANKIE WILL BE APPEARING ON FIRST? I’d suggest Dancing On Ice but by the sounds of things it seems like Frankie prefers grass and snow to ice.


What a prick.

2. Could it be that Justin Bieber has enough testosterone whizzing around inside of him to impregnate another human being?

It’s news so shocking that we’ve even been discussing it in some of my lessons- there is a young lady out there declaring that Justin Bieber is the father of her four-month-old baby. Baby. Baby.

Justin himself is not happy, and has claimed that he has never even met Mariah Yeater, the 20-year-old woman claiming she took Justin’s virginity in a toilet and consequently became pregnant with his child. And they say romance is dead, eh?

The lass herself is hardly the most reliable of sources, though. As if the story wasn’t already murky enough, she’s already told someone else that he is the father and is currently due to face a judge after she smacked one of her ex-boyfriends around. One thing is for sure and that is that Mariah Yeater is something of a crazy bitch, but you can’t just go around saying people are the father of your baby when they aren’t, can you?

Justin himself, of course, is not best pleased, and has branded the whole debacle as “crap and lies” on his Twitter page. However, he has agreed to take a paternity test to hopefully put the whole thing to bed. It’s not yet known whether he will be using Jeremy Kyle’s services in order to set the record straight, but I can only pray that he does. The thought of Jezza shouting “PUT SOMETHING AT THE END OF IT” before going to Selena Gomez in the audience, telling her “you’re mic’ed up already, welcome to the show” is a dream I pray comes to fruition...

The sad truth if Justin turns out to be the father of the child is, of course, that even Justin Bieber is managing to get laid more than me :(

3. Madonna has a new song out and it is worth listening to, unless you’ve already made your mind up about her in which case listening to it is a waste of time.

It’s not always easy being a Madonna fan. Often, you find yourself having to defend her against people who claim she’s “too old”, “irrelevant” and “trying too hard”. Sometimes, when she’s on the top of her game making banging pop records and telling fans she hates the flowers they’ve brought for her, she makes herself easy to defend. Other times, when she’s thrusting her Crunchy-Nut-Cornflakes-fanny in your face and making up stories about dance-offs with Lady GaGa, it’s more difficult to defend her.

That’s why when it was revealed that her upcoming single Give Me All Your Love, produced by Martin Solveig, had leaked online I was apprehensive. While, of course, I was excited to hear her latest music, her last offering featured a phoned-in verse from Lil Wayne where she boasted “my sex is a killer” and told us “my love’s a revolver-volver-volver” until images of Madonna’s vulva were indeed burned on the inside of your eyelids.

Thankfully one listen to Give Me All Your Love more or less affirms that the Hard Candy era is officially over. Gone are cries of “see my bootie get down” and references to her crusty vagina. Instead she’s put out an unselfconscious and, especially by Madonna’s standards, fun song which sounds very 2011 without sounding like it’s trying too hard to be “young” or “current”.

I have a specific message for people who think Madonna is too old to be making music these days, particularly pop music which has a history of being youth-obsessed. This is a job Madonna has been in for 30 years, why should she back down just because she isn’t 22 anymore? Think about your own mother, would you be happy if someone told her she couldn’t do her job anymore just because of her age?

On a similar train of thought, I must admit that looking back Hard Candy did seem, in retrospect, to be trying a bit too hard. If my mam put out an album like Hard Candy, I wouldn’t really be supportive. However, if my mam was to release a single like Give Me All Your Love I would be very happy indeed. In fact, if any record producers are reading this, I believe my mam was put on this earth to perform a song just like Give Me All Your Love at G-A-Y on a Saturday night for a group of largely underage homosexuals off their face on half-price VK and poppers. If someone could make this happen I’d be very grateful.

I could describe it for you till the cows come home and moo through the letterbox, but really all you want is a clip, right? Right.

Good, innit?

Someone who’s less than won over by the leaked song, however, is ex-Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts, whose tweets would seem to imply that, like hundreds of others on Twitter, she has noticed similarities between her own song Beat Of My Drum and the new Madonna single, namely the opening line (“L-U-V Madonna”) which is strikingly similar to the chorus of Nicola’s debut single (“L-O-V-E, dance to the beat of my drum).

IN AN AMAZING TWIST, fellow Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole tried to console Nicola...

...but it was no good...


Meanwhile, Madonna’s reps have claimed that the leak is only a demo and Madonna is said to be fuming that the song has leaked. I imagine she took her frustration out in the typical Madonna fashion by chucking her youngest across the living room.

The song will be performed live for the first time at the Superbowl, which will apparently feature a collaboration between Lady Madge and Nicki Minaj which, let’s face it, will probably give me a heart attack. I’m trying not to think too much about it in case I spontaneously combust.

That’s it.
I’m back.
It feels good.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I don't think we're in Newcastle anymore...

I promised myself that I was not going to post another blog, particularly on the subject of my year abroad, until I could do so in the comfort of my own flat. Annoyingly, due to unforeseen circumstances this seems to be a dream I get further away from achieving with each passing day. And so, this fine Tuesday evening here in La Ferté Bernard's branch of McDonald's, get comfortable and I will tell thee a (possibly quite wordy and short on photos so I'd get comfortable) tale…

I have officially been living in France three weeks now and I still cannot speak French, although I have learned some new words. For example, I have learned that when you end a conversation with someone in the middle of the day you can say "bonne journée" to them. This is something I was never taught, although it is a greeting used by most of the people I have encountered in the 22 days I have been here, and I have been speaking French since I was 11 years old. Similarly, should the end of a conversation take place in the evening you can leave with a jaunty "bonne soirée". Mind-blowing stuff. You'd think someone at some point might have taught me this, wouldn't you? No one did.

I also now know the French word for mosquito ("la moustique") I appreciate that learning one new noun is not exactly a great achievement, particularly given the similarity to its English translation, but it was a necessary word to learn so that I could explain to people that I didn't have two gigantic nipples in the middle of my face, but instead I was bitten in the night a total of six times during my first week here. Embarrassingly this meant that for my first night out in Le Mans I had to experience my first taste of meeting new people in France with two mosquito bites on my cheek, but it could have been a lot worse and it was probably my own fault for not fully closing my shutters when I went to sleep. I have also learned the French word for shutters which, for those who are interested, is "les volets". Don't say I never teach you anything.

While I have not been here for a very long time, I have so far met some very pleasant people, namely María José, a girl from León in the North of Spain who lives above me and is the Spanish assistant at the same "lycée" as me. Our friendship is based largely on the fact that we have both unwittingly submitted ourselves to the same accidental hell in the form of our living arrangements. Before arriving we were told we'd be staying in our own apartments with a corner kitchenette, bathroom and our own TV which on paper sounds like a pretty luxurious life when you consider we would not be required to pay rent. This meant we were less than pleasantly surprised when we eventually saw our living quarters which initially consisted of one room containing a bed, a microwave, a desk and a fridge. I was lucky enough to have shelves in my room, a luxury María is yet to be granted. Bizarrely, however, her room is permanently neat while mine resembles the aftermath of a small-scale tornado. I have somehow managed to lose my favourite bow tie in what can only be described as the world's smallest living space. This is truly something only I could find possible.

Since moving here, I have of course learned a lot about the French way of life. For some reason British people seem to have it in their heads that the French are rude, and I am here to offer my rebuttal to that. In order to arrive here I had to take a total of four trains over the course of a ten hour journey. Two of these trains left from stations in Britain, and two left from stations in France. The first saw me arriving in London dragging two comically oversized suitcases behind me, each weighing roughly my own body mass. Unfortunately when trying to dismount the train in London I accidentally tripped and stumbled off, which provoked a bystander to "tut" at me. I'm not sure if "tutting" exists outside of the UK but it is probably one of the rudest things you could to someone who hasn't intentionally done anything wrong. If I see a teenage mother blow smoke into her baby's face in a bus shelter then I agree that "tutting" is a good idea. When I watch a youth pushing past an old woman for the last seat on the metro, "tutting" is the perfect reaction. It expresses disdain. Really though, watching a young man struggling with two cases he is clearly unable to carry is not an appropriate time to "tut". "Tutting" takes place when you fall off a train in London. I am yet to be tutted at in France.

In fact, when I arrived in France it was a completely different story. Everyone was smiling and looking on apologetically, that was if they weren't offering their assistance with my obviously heavy suitcases. By this time I was sweating profusely and kicking out quite a stink, so perhaps it could just be that my discomfort was more obvious in France than in England, but that's not all.

If you, too, are English I want you to try an experiment with me. I want you to think about your home town. I don't mean your nearest city or your any of that shite, I mean your home town. The actual town you grew up in. Now I want you to think about that town's shopping centre. I want you to imagine that town's shopping centre on a Tuesday night at about 8pm. Am I right in thinking that the spray-painted shutters have been down on the Greggs for a couple of hours now, and there's some shady-looking characters hanging around outside Booze Busters? I can imagine there are some hoodlums, or "hoodies" if you will, sitting around in tracksuits. Perhaps one of them has a frightening-looking dog. The dog might not necessarily be frightening-looking in other company, for example if the dog were sitting between to gaily playing twins it may even be cute, but around these angry-looking youths the dog looks ferocious. Are you imagining it? Good.

Now I want you to imagine walking past these "hoodies", looking one of them in the eye and saying "good evening" to them. Can you imagine the reaction? In my head it ends with being chased by the "hoodies" presumably on their bicycles, while they shout profanities and their angry dog snarls frighteningly at me. And yet, if I walk around the town centre here in La Ferté Bernard and I make eye contact with them and don't wish them a good day, it is considered impolite. Instead, if you say "bonsoir" to a stranger as you walk around the town centre here, they'll smile politely and say it back to you. Imagine that!

One downside to living in this casual atmosphere is that things take a lot longer to get done. In no way is this more true than in the case of my French bank account. On my second day here in La Ferté Bernard I went with one of my main teachers Anne-Cecile (a lovely woman with the most impressive house I have ever seen or am ever likely to see. In a Pushing Daisies-esque quirky sort of way, she collects Victorian-style doll-houses. ISN'T THAT THE MOST CHARMING THING YOU'VE EVER HEARD?) to open my French bank account. It seems this was important should I hope to collect my wages. Now perhaps you don't know me very well but I am not known for my luck with banks, as I find them frightfully intimidating. It turns out I had no need to be intimidated as the staff at the bank were very reassuring, speaking in clear French to help me as best they could understand the ins and outs of my French bank account. I left feeling pleased with myself, even slightly more independent, but most importantly I was assured my French bank card would be arriving in 8 days and then I could really start my life here properly.

If someone could have told me that three weeks later I would still be waiting for my bank card to arrive, I would have reserved my initial feelings of calmness. Instead I find myself checking my mail each day in vain, hoping to have received something from my French bank but every day I get there and the cupboard was bare meaning, as my dear mother would say, "Mother Hubbard's dog gets nought". This is frustrating for a number of reasons, but truly the worst of all is the fact that without a French bank account it is impossible to start a contract for things like Internet connection or mobile phones.

Now, folks, this is what is referred to on Twitter as a "first world problem". Poor old Daniel has to go a few days without getting online. Boo-hoo. As my friend Anna said to me, "you'll have to go retro and buy yourself a dirty French magazine" but that is the worst of it. And this is true, provided you aren't branching out on your own for the first time and living in a country where you scarcely speak the language and don't know anybody. The fact of the matter is that for my first two weeks I felt terribly homesick and lonely for quite a lot of the time, and it would have helped to have had some Internet in my "flat". I learned today the reason my bank card (and that of María) is yet to arrive is because they took our address down wrong in the bank. Idiots.

María and myself. Cheesy grins.

Thankfully, there was a glimmer of hope in the form of the hub here in La Ferté Bernard: its glorious McDonalds. Since we arrived here, María and I have become something of regulars at the local branch of McDonalds for no reason other than its free Wi-Fi facilities. It is now at the point where I know the staff in McDonald's better than most of the teachers I came here to assist in the first place because of the amount of time I spend here. While enjoying a double cheeseburger "au natur" it is good to get back into the world of online shenanigans, as things like Blogger and Facebook (otherwise known as the two non-pornographic websites I use the most) are blocked on the staffroom computers. Unfortunately this means that I am often behind on my celebrity gossip, which usually I pride myself on being bang up-to-date on. The following are events I have heard about from the celebrity world over my time in France:

1) Steve Jobs died: It is a shame Steve Jobs died because truly without him my world would be a very different place
2) Rihanna upset a farmer in Northern Ireland by getting her tits out: No offence to Rihanna who I love, but I have to side with the farmer. It's his land and if he doesn't want her on it naked that's his prerogative.
3) Frankie Sandford and Sarah Harding in rehab: Awful shame, best of luck to the both of them
4) Frankie Cocozza and Janet Devlin through another week on X Factor: What the fuck is wrong with you, Great Britain?
5) Alex Reid proposing live to Chantelle Houghton: Best of luck to them but they do themselves no favours, do they?

That is all.

Thankfully I do get the occasional break from McDonald's, during which I have visited the nearby city of Le Mans for a couple of nights out so far. The first party I went to was for Spanish students in the Le Mans area (obviously I went as María's guest). Probably one of the most foolishly arrogant things I have ever done in my life was going to this party, clearly over-estimating my abilities at the Spanish language I was clearly under the impression that a 'B' at A-Level two years ago meant that I could conduct a conversation on a variety of topics with Spanish people. Somehow I ended up telling a girl named Veronica in Spanish that my drag queen alter-ego was named Veronica Electronica (for some reason the Spanish word "reínona" is one I have never forgotten, although I can no longer remember simple vocabulary like "knife", "fork" or "spoon"), though how I managed for the rest of the night is something that I will never know. One lesson I learned that night is that my Spanish is not great.

I also met some very cool English-speaking people in Le Mans, which is good because sometimes I just need to speak in my broadest Geordie accent and have people understand what the fuck I'm talking about. I'm currently sitting in a fairly crowded fast-food restaurant and I'm confident that no more than 10% of the people in here will know who Cheryl Cole or Katie Price are? Can you imagine? I get to Le Mans whenever I can to see lovelies such as Jenni (who is the The Only Way Is Essex to my Geordie Shore), Harriet (who I thought was posh until she started telling me about how she loves the word "cunt") and Nik (who I spent a considerable amount of time discussing the camp value of crazy bitch films such as Sweeney Todd and Mommie Dearest, although I daresay he will not remember these conversations as by this point in the evening he was rather under the influence of white wine). It is nice knowing some people, although living far away is not great. I thank God every day that María is living here too, to perform showtunes with me in the staff room and applaud me when I say two words in correct Spanish.

Of course let's not forget that I am here primarily to help today's French youth learn English. I'm going down a lot better than I'd anticipated I would, the teachers are all super-nice and so far none of the students have openly called me a faggot. Nothing too embarrassing has happened, although the other day I did accidentally tell a group of teenagers that Nicki Minaj made me sexually aroused which, while true, is obviously not what I had intended to say to them. Embarrassing stuff. This weekend I was invited (with María) to get to know some of the teachers a bit better at a pot-luck lunch thrown by many of the languages department. We all know, of course, I don't do well eating in front of strangers in such social situations, and ended up trading my food with María in exchange for her glass of rosé wine. This, of course, meant that I ended up having slightly more to drink than everyone else and two more glasses of wine and two shots of "genièvre" later I found myself at a grown-up social event too tipsy to remember how to speak the French language. Needless to say, this being a grown-up social event (with the teachers I came to France to assist, no less) I felt it would be inappropriate to say "woopsie, it seems I've had too much to drink and forgotten how to speak French" so I simply had to keep schtum, nod along and laugh when everyone else did.

Reading over this account, it seems I've done nothing but slag the place I'm currently living in off which is actually the opposite of what I'd hoped to do because it truly is beautiful here. I have gone from someone who would sooner chew off his own feet at the ankle than walk anywhere more than five minutes away, and I've actually turned into someone who goes for walks FOR SOMETHING TO DO, such is the prettiness of this town. When I go for my shopping and have to walk through the medieval town centre I genuinely feel like Belle from the opening scenes of Beauty and the Beast, and not just because as I walk past the villagers they mutter to themselves about how peculiar I am ("a beauty but a funny Beeeeelle").

This building behind me is actually an optician or some shit like that, but isn't it pretty and French?

This seems like as good a place as any to wrap up this rather disjointed account of my admittedly quite short time here, largely because there is a group of small children who are literally shrieking like seagulls in the soft play area of this McDonald's and if I don't leave soon I am going to walk over there with my tray and brutally murder them.

Don't forget if you want a more regularly updated (and chronologically accurate) account of my time here in France you're probably better off following me on Twitter here!

(Silly Old) Daniel

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup.

For those who are keeping track, it's now just four short days until I arrive in France. This time in four days I will (hopefully) be on the train from Lille to Le Mans, with my two giant suitcases in tow, probably listening to some kind of empowering diva song to stop me from crying alone and in public. Frightening. I'm not gone yet, though, so let's dig in to another Silly Old Daniel Celebrity Roundup...

1. All kinds of stuff is going on for that band known as Girls Aloud (unless, obviously, you're Nadine Coyle and you've stopped being invited to things).

Girls Aloud's century-long "year off" is still rolling along nicely with most of them going off and pursuing various projects in the field of performance art while Kimberley Walsh is currently flogging her own range of jewellery at Argos. OH, SHE'S LIVING THE DREAM.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Cole spent most of last week abandoning the world of mediocre pop music and being publicly elbowed in the groin by Simon Cowell and decided to take a relaxing holiday. And you know what they say- what better way to kick up your heels and unwind is there than a relaxing trip to the front line in Afghanistan??

The Geordie Princess flew out to the warzone to commemorate the fact that Britain's army have been in Afghanistan for the past ten years. And what a decade it's been, eh? The Sex And The City movie. The launch of crunchy M&Ms. The rise of Las Ketchup singing The Ketchup Song and then, of course, The Ketchup Song (Xmas Mix). Those poor soldiers have missed it all and so much more, so it's only right they should get a visit from Cheryl Cole as part of The Mirror's Pride Of Britain celebrations.

While she was there she took part in a mock gun battle, which is great because it meant we get to see Cheryl decked out in her army gear:


While she was there Cheryl also reportedly got her revenge on former boss Simon Cowell, when a dummy bearing his likeness was blown up by the army lads. Dearie me. She later, while on the frontline, heard a big explosion which she claims provoked "a few expletives". That's our lass.

Despite this, Cheryl had nothing but good things to say about the experience:


When she returned to the UK she headed over to Nicola Roberts's house (as you do) with the rest of her fellow Girls Aloud singers, who posted this picture of them all on Twitter:

I wonder if the other girls even bother inviting Nadine Coyle to these things. Would you? Honestly? Trying to have a girlie night with someone incomprehensibly wailing Insatiable at the top of their lungs so you can't hear Bridget Jones's Diary...what's worse than that?

While we're on the subject of Nicola Roberts, the release of her debut album Cinderella's Eyes draws ever nearer, so to celebrate this she's premiered another song from the album, this time it's the closing track which is called Sticks + Stones and deals with the bullying she received from the British press when she first got started in Girls Aloud.

Before you listen, please heed this warning: Sticks + Stones is not a funny song:

"Funny how I was too young for so many things but you thought I'd cope with being told I'm ugly".

2. Madonna provides the soundtrack to the fight against homophobia.

Let's be honest, homophobia is unfortunately very much alive and well and more often than we'd like people in positions of power have less than open-minded ideas when it comes to the idea of people of the same sex making a life together, being in love or INDEED just having sexual relations with one another.

This is certainly the case with Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, whose family host a Christian counselling service which offers homosexuals the chance to turn their lives around by "praying the gay away". Wow.

When she arrived in California for some class of Republican party gathering, what she hadn't banked on was a welcome party from a group of angry homosexuals who, among other hilarious slogans, performed a flash mob routine to Madonna's controversial signature tune, Like A Prayer. Can anyone think of a better way to greet someone who offers Christian conversion therapy to LGBT people than a performance of Like A Prayer?

Well done all concerned. Keep fighting the good fight, particularly if the good fight continues to feature a Madonna number.

3. Rihanna further proves that she has singles coming out the wazoo.

This time last year Rihanna was busy promoting her single Te Amo from her Rated R album when suddenly- while the song was still in the charts- it was decided that less than a year after her last album was released she was going to be chucking a new one out and with it would be a brand new single. This single turned out to be Only Girl (In The World) which ended up giving Rihanna a much-needed solo number 1 single.

It seems she's up to her old tricks again because, despite the fact Cheers (Drink To That) has only been out about 5 minutes, and her collaboration with Nicki Minaj Fly continues to climb up the charts, that's not enough for the most ADHD woman in pop. You see, earlier this week she was asked when the follow-up to 2010's Loud would be released and this was her reply:

Since then it was announced that a collaboration between Rihanna and Calvin Harris would be coming very soon, and that is exactly what happened as it had its first play on Capital FM today. It's called We Found Love-- but is it any good? WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO IT FOR YOURSELF:

In other words: yes. It is very good. This will be Rihanna's sixth (SIXTH!) single release so far in 2011 (seventh if you include Man Down which ended up not being released in the UK), so between shooting music videos, featuring on tracks with Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, appearing in her film debut Battleships and performing on her Loud tour, I really don't know how Rihanna finds time to record ANOTHER album.

Her sixth album is coming this November, apparently. Rihanna is, I must stress, 23 years old.


If this is my last blog before I go abroad, then I will talk to you all when I get there.
Think good things for me, please.