I’ve learnt a few things about myself in France…

Travelling, it has been suggested, is one of the best ways to learn life lessons. You know, soul searching, horizon broadening, that kind of thing. And I for one agree. There are a number of things I didn’t know I was shit at, but now, thanks to my trip in France, I’m now enlightened to.

This may not shock those of you who have seen my culinary attempts before, but it’s been a genuine surprise to me. I am viciously proud of the curries I make- and am a spice snob like you’ve never known before. But pass me some flour and a whisk, and I deteriorate. A five minute can’t-fail bread recipe becomes all out kitchen war, a food fight between me and the mixing bowl. And after all the effort and stressed google searches (“what is hoummus supposed to look like”), the result always tastes like shit. It’s so demoralising.


Still, not one to let a little stodgy bread or salty chocolate brownies get in my way, I’ve made myself a little promise that I’m going to carry on making stuff from scratch. I’m going to stop relying on tins of peaches to get my five a day, and I’m going to make the perfect loaf of bread if it kills me.

Coping with bugs.
I’ve never been one of those people who squeels at the sight of a creepy crawly. I’d prefer for them not to be in my cocktail, or in my bed, but as long as they keep themselves to themselves, I can carry on with my life. If you don’t look at me, I won’t look at you. It’s worked for me all my life- and I even have the magic ability to not implode whenever a wasp dawdles by unlike basically everyone else I know.

But that’s changed. You try sharing a tent with the entire fucking cast of A Bug’s Life.When I’m trying to relax on a hammock with a good book and Beedrill, of Pokemon fame, tries to pick an unprovoked fight with me, then as far as I’m concerned, our laissez-faire deal is off. Next time a demon hybrid of Eight-Legged Freaks and the devil incarnate creeps up on me, I’m going to scream until someone bigger and braver than me disposes of it.

Speaking French
Despite my 80% attendance at my evening classes last year, it turns out I’m not fluent in French. Waste of money, I know. I do give it a good try, and spend a lot of my time at parties translating the conversations around me for Anna, the other workawayer staying with us who has an even tinier grasp of the language than me.

It’s cool though- I have one useful phrase nailed. If in doubt, I go “je peut comprende un peu, mais je ne parle pas“. And for those of you who can’t be arsed to translate, it means “I can understand a little, but I can’t speak it”. And for the rest of you who are aware how appallingly bad that attempt is- don’t jump to your trolling stations just yet- ITS SUPPOSED TO BE BAD FRENCH. That way, I’m promptly exempt from having to struggle to understand what’s going on. Genius, really.

Being cool 

Okay, this one isn’t really new. There have been some hints over the past twenty years that have indicated I’m not blisteringly cutting edge. I have a blog, for starters. I get withdrawal symptoms from Coronation Street, and form really strong attachments to authors (if you’re reading this, Bill Bryson/Simon Armitage, I love you). I’m not sure the press needs to be informed of this revelation.

But the extent of how uncool I am has certainly come to light. While I’m at a gangette (French riverside parties- very similar to Fishing For Bishops vibes, but with free onion soup at the end), and everyone else is passing around beer and joints, I’m taking a quick nap in the back of the car. I had to hold back the surge of emotion upon finding a birthday message in a handwritten prayer book. I only just managed to contain my excitement on finding a pressed flower in a French art book from the 1930s.

Long and short of it; if you are asked on a scale of one to ten how uncool Farrah Kelly is, you should politely ask the enquirer for a larger scale.

There have been some other life lessons, for good measure. It’s not all been about how sub-par I am. I’m not as bad you’d rightly expect at rockclimbing. I can find a books’ ISBN number in less than ten seconds. I can climb to the top of a pile of crates with a torch in my mouth, a book on palmreading in one hand and a long checklist in the the other, and still manage to come back down with the right edition of Keats. You know, real life skills. The important stuff.

Farrah Kelly

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