1. I finished my internship today and I can’t quite believe it. It wasn’t nearly as momentous or emotional as finishing in Leipzig – I’d been there for twice as long, and we even had a leaving party with cake and presents. But even so, the end of June felt about as far away as retirement a few months ago, and the idea of year abroad ever actually ending seemed nigh on impossible. There is so much more to say on that – I’ll save it for another time. But for now, I’ve handed in my door card, emptied my email inbox, and removed the last of the snacks from my desk drawer. I am FREE.
2. Lana and Fran are arriving tonight, fresh from A Levels, so my final two days in Paris are going to be spent showing them around – pretty parks, skyline views, and fun bars – hopefully in the sunshine.
3. By the time I get home on Friday morning, Britain might have voted to leave the EU. It’s a thought too terrifying to comprehend. I’ve been trying for weeks to write at least semi-eloquently about why we must remain, but haven’t quite managed it. Yet.
4. After nine weeks in the office, I got to spend the best part of the last two weeks seeing a very different side of life in the television industry. First, I went en tournage. This was very accomodatingly arranged for me by my lovely boss after I decided not to go away with the company last month. Instead of filming at campsites all over France, I went to see the final episodes, where the candidates reconvene in Paris to discuss each others’ successes, failures, and sometimes personal qualities in a way that descends into explosive arguments. Fun. Life on set was quite an experience, not least because of the unlimited supply of available food, diet coke and coffee that topped itself up throughout the day. I’d somehow never quite realised how much of a farce reality TV is before. The bit where the candidates look at each other and say “let’s go find the others”? They don’t actually go find the others. They say it for the camera, maybe seven times, because Jean-Pierre can’t remember to look at his wife instead of the camera, and Coralie can’t stop fiddling with her microphone, and then they go and drink free coffee in the green room for a few hours until the director has meticulously lined up the table with the windows and none of the cameras are visible. It’s completely performative, and completely bizarre.
5. The second part of my television industry tour was a couple of days in the production centre. This was proper media: studios and headsets and lots of screens and buttons and wires. I was a little out of my depth. I watched as two hours of footage was cut ruthlessly into five minutes of screen time, re-inventing conversations into something as bitchy as possible. I browsed through music libraries of tunes called things like ‘quirky’ and ‘brewing argument’ and helped choose the best snippets. And – probably the hardest task of my whole year abroad – I attempted to transcribe interviews, in French, and doubted myself and my language skills a lot.
6. Football fever has hit Paris. This is manifesting itself primarily in what seems to be an invasion of the Irish: red hair and green shirts are to be found on every metro; distinctive accents are to be heard proclaiming crude comments every time your evening run takes you past a bar. A group of us went to watch the opening match in the fan zone, where you look beyond the screens to the Eiffel Tower. It was overpriced and overcrowded, but I’m glad I went – for the experience at least. It was fun to jump up and down with random French students when France scored, and chanting “allez les bleus” felt a lot more respectable than any thuggish English fan behaviour.
7. I finally made it to Versailles! We – Noonie, Tash, Jonathan and I – went on a rainy Sunday. Two of us managed to completely misunderstand the RER train system and arrived an hour later than planned. It turned out that deciding to go to a primarily indoor tourist attraction wasn’t a unique idea, and we were there with what seemed like most football fans in Europe, as well as the usual tourists of the white-trainer-and-selfie-stick variety. Still. We decided not to let the ominously grey clouds put us off and walked around the gardens, which are vast and beautiful, with concealed speakers blasting out French baroque bangers like Lully, Rameau and Charpentier. (Whether my friends would agree on ‘bangers’ remains to be seen). And then, with soggier feet than Louis XVII would have liked, we traipsed around his palace, marvelling at his ornate bedrooms and wonderful hall of mirrors. And – just as Tash and I did on our first castle excursion to Königstein all those months ago – we finished with coffee and cake. Year abroad came full circle.
8. I started running properly for the first time in years when I got to Lyon four months ago. At the time I was feeling unwell and unfit, achey and stressed, and above all terribly, cripplingly anxious. Actually boarding my Eurostar to France felt unbelievably brave, and putting on my trainers for the first time a few days later even more so. (I was actually scared that I might have a heart attack if I ran. Irrational, but true). Anyway, I’ve kept up the running religiously since I started in March, never running less than twice a week, and last night I managed a whole FIFTEEN kilometres along the Seine. And I felt as if I could have kept going. It was a very good metaphor for just how far I’ve come.