I’m covering a permanence in another pavillon and I don’t think I ever fully appreciated how good I have it at mine. You see, we have wifi in our pavillon, well, we don’t, but we can access a wifi network from the front of the pavillon. This means I can access the wifi whilst on duty in the office (not l’office which is where we stick all the cleaning stuff as I’ve said before). The second advantage is that in our tiny office, we have windows. I never realised how very useful having windows was. The office I’m currently in has no windows and has a machine that makes the most annoying ceaseless noise I’ve come across in a while. Seriously, I have to put headphones in just to stop the headache. Daniel wasn’t kidding when he said the permanences here sucked. I’m hot, have a headache and bored off my head. I could edit more of my special study and be productive, but I have like three and a half hours here and I’ve discovered that I can completely concentrate on my special study for the duration of the new Linkin Park album before losing focus and getting fidgety, I’m sure I can fit forty minutes of constructiveness in my three hours and a half here. Also, I know I’m moaning like there’s no tomorrow, but it is hot in here and that bloody machine is persistently noisy and hell, I’m British, I love me some moaning.
There was some minor pavillon drama in the time between my last entry and this one, but given I can’t remember when I wrote the last one, I can’t be sure I haven’t already written about them. There was my adventure into the Pavillon of Incompetence. That’s probably a bit mean, but when you arrive to help at a pavillon, you expect the buckets and sheets to be prepared, the bins to have been collected and the doors to have been unlocked. So when you turn up and they aren’t even expecting you, you just know you’re going to have a fun old time. I ended up working about half an hour later than normal, because it had apparently taken that long to work out which rooms which team should should clean. The funniest part was that our team was then given two rooms that had already given to another group. I was impressed, can you tell? We got all our rooms down just fine, but I was told later that they’d managed to miss a room. Oh, and though totally unrelated to the organisational prowess of said pavillon, one of the rooms we cleaned had been used by a smoker. How did we know? There was ash on the floor and the whole room positively spewed cigarette smoke at you upon entrance. It’s not allowed of course, but when have rules ever stopped rulebreakers?
What else? Well, because my pavillon is actually pilgrimless this week (it will still have volunters in them), me and Annick, who also works in my pavillon have been drafted to help a neighbouring pavillon. We’ll be there for cleaning and permanences, but we’ll still be living in our pavillon, which is good because I would be all types of unimpressed if they asked me to move two weeks before I was set to leave. Having said that though, I might be the only person in my pavillon if the planning doesn’t change anytime soon. Basically, everyone, and I mean everyone (except me obviously), is leaving the pavillon this week. If no one is moved in on Saturday, I’ll be on my tod in the pavillon. I’m still not sure if I’d find this very cool and skip all around the place, or if I’d find it terrifying and lock myself in a cupboard. Not that there are any cupboards mind you. To be honest, they’ll likely move me into another pavillon rather than leave me in one on my own. That would annoy me though, as they’d be asking me to move less than a week before leaving. I’ll just be annoyed if they move me. I’d be losing wifi access and the clothes horse. I have another two thousand to three thousand words to write for my essay and I’m worried about losing a clothes horse. My priorities are in all the right places.
I think, unless my memory is as bad as I think it is, that I’ve had three days off since my last entry. This would mean that you haven’t heard the adventure of my day off that ended up being more taxing than what I do on a day on. (Seriously English, why is it okay to say ‘day off’ but not ‘day on’. Stupid collocations.) Basically, as usual, all attempts at a lie in failed. If your fellow pavillon workers arent vacuuming outside your room at half eight, then the gardners are terrorising the grass (I say terrorising because those machines are so loud that I could be convinced the grass is actually screaming). So I got up and then I pissed about pretty much all morning until Annick asked me if I’d fancy doing some interpreting. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a special ice-breakery day for all the young volunteers. Part of this consists of a tour where you go around Lourdes and follow the route Bernadette would have taken to go to the Grotto, stopping along the way for historical information. As there were four or five people going on the tour who weren’t French (two were Irish, two were Indian), though they could speak it, I was invited to interpret into English. I leapt at the oppurtunity, more or less, there wasn’t actually any jumping involved.
So I went and interpreted and the tour lasted about two and a half hours and it’s bloody hard. It was conscutive translating, so the tour guide, Father Eric, would occasionally leave me gaps to interpret (he was excellent at this), but it was still really challenging. You have to listen to every single word and you can’t be distracted for a second, or you’ve lost a bit of information to transmit. Occasionally there was a completely familiar word and I just had to flat out ask what it was, which is why Curé still confuses me, because I have an inkling that it doesn’t mean parish priest though that’s the impression they were giving me. There was also the problem of forgetting what the first thing he said was, and needing to ask again so you don’t neglect it and only translate the end of what he was saying. There was also the small matter of my face. I had to really concentrate, like all the time, so I’m ninety percent sure that I spent most of my time frowning. Understandably, I don’t know what I look like when I concentrate, but I imagine that there is some frowning involved, so I probably looked a bit odd. Occasionally, you have to just get the message across and abandon all sense of an accurate translation, because you can’t remember the exact words.
Oh and at the end? I was knackered. Beyond knackered. My brain hurt and I had to go and have a nap just to release myself from what was probably a zombie-like level of consciousness. I should point out that these are the observations of an amateur with no interpreting experience or training. I imagine a properly trained interpreter would read that and have a hissy fit of some description, but as a language student with no training, that’s what I noticed. I imagine if I do go and do this Masters I’m considering, they’ll tell me I was completely wrong and what the hell did I think I was doing. It was a great experience though, even if it did knacker me rather thoroughly. So that day off was, yeah, well, not the best day off as it turns out. I’m not sure working on your day off and doing something as mentally taxing as cleaning is tiring strictly classifies as a ‘jour de repos’ (day of rest).
My second day off, a week later and last Thursday, consisted of sitting on a bus and visiting Pau and the sitting on a bus some more. Whilst the buses from Pau to Lourdes are perfect for day trips, Lourdes to Pau leads a lot to be desired. There is a bus at 0600 and one at 0715, which would get you in for 0725 and 0840 respectively. I am not a morning person, unless there be something on the telly I want to watch that’s on at stupid ‘o’ clock, so those two were out of the question. I get up at half seven most days, why would I get up earlier on my day off? I wouldn’t. So I had to catch the next bus to Pau, which leaves at 1305 and gets in at 1430. The bus I had to catch back (because I’m convinced last buses will do everything in their power to ruin my day) was at 1715. I had threeish hours in Pau because the 805 can’t seem to get its head around the idea that maybe people in Lourdes want to visit Pau. There are trains, but the bus costs €2, which is just liquid happiness, so bus it was and threeish hours it was.
It was enough time to visit the castle for free (being under 26 in France is a gift that you simply cannot sniff at) and admire its tortoise shell that King Henry IV of France supposedly but actually had nothing to do with and see some of the city, but I’d have liked to have stayed for longer. The ciy centre is up a hill, so there’s a free funiculaire (still can’t remember the English word) you can take to get up and down, which is just all kinds of impressive. The city centre of Pau itself is so French it’s almost ridiculous. I’d see something quintessentially French, turn a corner and there’s the Frenchest street you’ve ever seen with one of those Renaults and a scooter. You know the Renault I mean, the really French one. Pau is very very pretty and, if you’re in the area, it’s worth the time. It’s just so well maintained and pretty and French.
As for the castle, if you’re lucky enough to be under 26 entry (+ tour, the two being entirely inseparable) is free. It is very nice, and apparently a lot of the interior was actually bits Henry nabbed after they weren’t used in Versailles. The tortoise shell is actually a thing. It’ s a bit odd. Apparently the revolutionaries wanted and tried to burn it when they arrived in Pau, but they were given a decoy of some sort? I’ve never associated royalty with tortoise shells, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose. Pau is lovely. I shall maybe upload some photos once back in the UK, but we all know how well that tends to go, so I wouldn’t hold your breaths.
And today (which isn’t the same today as it was when I started writing) I had my third day off since my last blog post. I spent the morning sleeping, well, mostlyish (there being cleaning noises once again), and then I did my washing (the last one, and hey this sounds like a great day so far doesn’t it?) and then I caught a bus at 1517 to Argelès-Gazost to visit Les Jardins des Bains which is a spa. I went to a spa. There were so many different kinds if pools (if those tiny basins technically class as pools in any way). So many. Well four, but one of them was scented and changed scents every thirty seconds, which I thought was quite cool. The scented one made up for the ‘musical’ one where the concept appears to have slipped by them.
The idea of a musical one would be that you would have music playing through underwater speakers, where it would be loud and clear because of particles being closer together and science, but where you would hear no music above water. This concept seems to have snuck through the windows they left open because their speakers were above water and although I could hear it under the water, I had a hard time hearing it over my heart beating. The other problem I had is that the moment I put my head back to stick my ears in the water, I would float all over the place. I don’t think floating too much is considered a problem, but it is when you’re trying to listen to music that you can’t hear anyway because they’re not playing it under the water like they’re supposed to.
I also went into one of those spa rooms. What’re they called? Steam rooms? If they’re not, that’s what they should be called. I went into a hammam scented one and whilst I don’t know what hammam is or if it’s the same word in English, I do know that it smells nice even at 42ºC in a room with 65% humidity. The French are kind enough to put a water fountain (read water gun) in there for you to hydrate yourself with so you don’t die, but I ended up using it to cool myself off. The heat may have been getting to my head. I was in there fifteen minutes, which I consider an achievement, which I suppose only indicates that I am a very sad person with a handful of achievements, likely as pathetic. Having said that though, I took one look at the statistics for the other steam room before running off to sit in the jacuzzi. The ‘Arab’ steam room was something unholy like 45ºC and 95% humidity. 95% humidity is basically just being underwater as far as I’m concerned, so I avoided it like the plague.
So, other than more cleaning, discovering I’m basically a fish (I can sit in water for nearly two hours, thinking and be as happy and chilled out as a lark (are larks chilled out? are they even happy?)), making two Irish friends, discovering that drinking with Irish friends is not a good idea for sobriety, actually making progress with the special study, discovering that bus times in France are stupid and still failing to have a successful lie in, I don’t think much else has happened. Or at least, if anything else has happened, it’ll have to go in another post because this is three pages long, it’s ten past midnight and I have rooms to clean tomorrow (yay for toilet cleaning!) I feel I’m neglecting the story about Daniel and Theo and the difficulty I experience when going up and downstairs drunk with someone giving a comedic running commentary on my progress in the background. Giggling is not conducive to walking.
Anyway, there we go. Another disjointed blog entry for you. At least my essays aren’t disjointed. At least, I think they’re not disjointed..
. P.S. Apparently, it’s called a sauna and not a steam room. I am clever. Also, this was written on Friday. I apparently forgot to upload it. Again, I am clever. Oh and I have moved pavillions and the architect put the toilet behind the door. The architect is also clever.