New Year, New Country

Happy new year! If you had asked me two weeks ago what I thought 2011 would bring, I would have said it would be nine months of fairly slow, not very eventful life in the Borders with a few jaunts off to various parts of England to visit friends. And suddenly now I am moving to a new country entirely, to one of the most vibrant cities in the world, for a busy and almost certainly eventful life as an au pair!

It all feels like it has happened very suddenly to me, and I have been around for every stage of the process, so for anyone who is just keeping up with my life by reading this blog it must seem incredibly sudden. I guess it is really, but everything has fallen neatly into place (apart from when I discovered a few hours ago that my EHIC had expired eighteen months ago… but luckily renewing it took about thirty seconds and the new card might even arrive before I leave).

I went to meet the family on New Year’s Day, because they were conveniently staying in London for the holidays and I was visiting Anna in Surrey. It happened to be the birthdays of both the youngest girls – there are five children, only one of whom is a boy – and they had had a party the night before so the house was absolutely full of people. I only remembered the names of the people I’ll be living with, and a couple of the cousins. They seem really great, and from talking to the mother of the family it seems like we have broadly similar views on what kind of things children should be doing for fun (that makes me sound horribly stuffy; I just mean that all the kids play instruments and dance and make lots of mess with glue and glitter instead of staring at computer games all day or lying on the floor screaming).

The area they live in is not actually the centre of Paris, it’s across the river in a suburb called Saint-Cloud. From looking on the internet it seems like it is quite cultural, with a little arts house cinema and a theatre and several museum-type places. I will have a travel pass so I can go into Paris and explore – I’m already making a list of places I want to see!

I haven’t checked yet whether it will be alright for me to use the children’s real names or post photos and so on, but if their parents don’t mind then I will do so. For now I’ll just tell you all that they are aged between 1 and 11 years. Of course I’ll take lots of photos of the places I visit on my days off too 🙂

I’ve got masses of stuff to get sorted before I go. I had been leaving things to do “at some point soon”, like sending off my claims form for the cost of being stuck at Heathrow, or emailing college to get my internal mail forwarded. Suddenly I’ve got four days to do it all in, plus sorting all the paperwork for moving abroad, and packing! Thankfully since I’m an EU citizen going to an EU country, there isn’t a whole lot of paperwork but I still need to take my birth certificate and driving licence counterpart, and sort out a bank account, French SIM card, travel pass, and resident’s permit. Some websites have told me I won’t need that last thing, but others have told me it’s still necessary for things like bank accounts and insurance, so I’m taking all the things I need to get one just in case.

Well, that’s enough about France. I haven’t told you about New Year yet! The flight back from Norway was perfect, we even arrived miles early but Anna had cunningly checked the flight online so she was there to pick me up (me and my bright red fez, which I bought on a whim from a really tacky shop in Norway and had to wear through Customs because it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase).

I was only in Surrey for three nights but we went ice skating and shopping, went into London where we met up with Hector and also saw Oliver! at the Theatre Royal (Gryff Rhys Jones kept stepping out of character to make stupid comments about bankers but otherwise it was great), and in between played Bananagrams and watched lots of rom coms. I’ve been thinking back and it’s the first New Year I’ve spent in someone’s house – I’ve never been at home for it. When we were kids we went to a ceilidh every year, and since then I’ve always been off somewhere with friends, even if it was just in a pub full of middle-aged drunkards in the Welsh borders. It was nice to actually get to watch the fireworks on TV that I’ve heard people talk about, and since I had to be in London at 11 the next morning a wild party wouldn’t have been very sensible (I tried that in May Week, and it did not work very well, although I guess I got the job then too).

It’s been quite a whirlwind couple of weeks but it’s been great fun. It’s also been really expensive, what with all the faffing around I had to do before I went to Norway, so I now have about £20 left. I’m desperately trying to get repaid for all the theatre expenses, since between the various shows and airlines who owe me money I’m owed about £2,500 – and I am still expecting a college bill from last term. I kind of need that money to come back soon… especially since I don’t get my student loans at the moment.

Anyway, now I’m off to keep reading about exciting places in Paris and to email people who might have been expecting me to visit them in the next six months and suggest they come and see me in France instead! You are all welcome, with the caveat that I probably can’t even offer you floor space… but I’ll find a nice cheap hotel nearby!

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