In my last English post, (some four weeks ago now…oh how I have succumbed to sloth) I detailed the downright depressing affair that is: searching for accommodation in Rennes. By the start of October, however, things had begun to look up. I had moved into a fantastic studio designated for personnel of the university, and I loved it. The studio was big, fully equipped, well-heated, well-priced and well-located and I was living alone. Anti-social as it might sound, I had always wanted to live alone and have my own space to muck up, and as suspected, leaving my pants on the floor and doing the washing up just once a week truly was the key to happiness.
Nonetheless, the studio was only a temporary solution. Owned by the university, its main purpose is for visiting personnel, whose stay in Rennes would go no further than the three-month mark. As such, knowing I could stay only until the 30th of December, I was soon back on the hunt for an abode, investigating the usual options in the hope that with the passing of the busy September period, there might be more on offer in way of accommodation.
As luck would have it, my search proved fruitful. After a fairly shallow scan of my favourite website leboncoin, I found something that, for once, appeared promising. Close to the university, there were two rooms available in a colocation (flatshare), which were both fully furnished, and each room even came lavishly equipped with its own fridge and microwave. Not only that, at just 280 euros a month, bills included, it was a complete steal. In spite of my anti-sociaI ways described above, a flatshare also appealed to me; it would allow me to meet more French people, and thus socially “integrate”. So, full of hope, I went to an organised group visit with seven other people. The visit was possibly the most awkward 20 minutes of my life, as the cat greedily got everyone’s tongue at once, and the landlady explained the whole selection process to a largely mute audience and a many an awkward silence. However, knowing that we would be subject to an arbitrary selection process based on the landlady’s personal preference, I tried to ham up my “sweet English accent” and be even grinnier than my usual grinny self, in order to charm the landlady into choosing me. The next day I received an email confirming that she’d taken the bait, and I was to be one of the chosen ones!
Later that week (20th October), I met the landlady at the apartment in order to collect the keys. She was really quite lovely and helped me decipher the inventory, which was in French, and required my profoundly-considered opinions about the state of the skirting boards and doorframes in my room. Everything was looking pretty good. It wasn’t, however, until later that evening that things began to go a tad awry.
Having paid the university for my studio until the very end of October, I had intended to gradually migrate over to my new apartment in stages, but whilst still officially “living” in my old studio. Anyway, as I said, things started seeming a trifle fishy when I first returned to the flat the same day that I’d collected the keys. I came in to find a young, foreign blonde in the middle of an argument with a scraggly middle-aged Frenchman. Cultural exchange! I went straight to my room but continued to eavesdrop on the argument, which, it became apparent, was getting quite heated. I later found out that the blonde girl was Jula from Germany, and a lovely, 21-year-old ERASMUS student, whilst the man was Christophe from France, a 45-year-old nutcase. When I asked Jula what was going on, she said that, having tried to be friendly and civil with Christophe, he just wasn’t having any of it. She warned me that during his time in the apartment he had already scared off others before me, resulting in the vacancy that had lead to me now being an occupant of the same apartment. In fact, I didn’t need her warning to be aware of the problem, all I really needed was to listen to the argument that she was having with him. The dispute seemed to be related to cleaning. Christophe first of all refused to speak to Jula in French, claiming vehemently that her French was not sufficient enough to maintain a conversation with him. A more logical approach for him, was to bellow at her in his heavily-accented and broken English. His well-reasoned and logical argument included the following points: he informed Jula that he couldn’t get along with her because he didn’t like football fans or anyone that disliked animals, before demanding that she gave him a kiss on the cheek, but then concluding she was dressed like a prostitute who would end up “naked and in a bin”. At the time, the “animal-hating whore” Jula was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
Having just arrived in the apartment, I was somewhat reticent to intervene, considering that maybe Christophe was right and Jula really was a football-loving hooker of whom I was to be wary. Alas, as is often the case, the more logical response indeed turned out to be the correct one; and it was Christophe, in fact, who was the utter headcase.
As I said earlier, I didn’t move into my apartment officially until the 29th of October. That was the day that I “officially arrived”, bringing over armfuls of belonging, and declaring “Home sweet home” if you will. However, I returned to the apartment three or four times between collecting my keys and moving in, in order to use the internet and to wash some clothes (I had broken the washing machine in my studio; but that’s a story for another day). During these fleeting visits, I had a few bizarre encounters with Christophe myself, although nothing so alarming that it put me off moving in (such was the relief I felt after securing a room). Before even asking my name, he warned me about the dangers of using the internet (in case the government should be a spyin’ our virtual indiscretions), and he demanded to know how long I’d planned on staying in the apartment. And when I say that, I don’t mean in a casual “Oh, so how long are you in France?” sort of way, more in a “And when can I get rid of you too?” sort of way. Finally, when I invited Jula to go for a drink with me and some friends, we bumped into Christophe a good four times en route from the flat to the bar, sparking suspicion that he was following us.
In spite of his hostility, Christophe seemed to be delighted that his new flatmates were to be two boys, and I surmised from this that his issue was more based on a problem with women than with human beings in general. I imagined that maybe he had some interesting, sad back story about a wife of his leaving him for the milkman, thus provoking a deeply-rooted vendetta towards all things feminine as a result. Obviously I don’t condone misogyny in any way – but at this point I figured that, not being a woman, I may be spared the same abuse. Furthermore, considering Christophe’s tirade against Jula earlier about how he didn’t like football fans or people who didn’t like animals, I considered myself “down with the psychopath”.
But it was the morning after I moved into the apartment that things began to go a trifle awry. Because, you see, aside from being mentally deranged, Christophe was apparently also OCD about cleanliness. And thus, at 8.15am the next morning, I was to be awoken by a pounding on my door. Groggy, half-clothed and generally confused about life, I opened the door to be greeted with a stream of abuse in French from this middle aged gentlemen whom I’d met just days earlier. Essentially, he told me that the apartment was a fucking disgrace, and demanded to know why I thought I was exempt from the cleaning it. Now, I admit I am not the tidiest of chaps, but, my beloved virtual readership, I can assure you that I am not so disgusting as to have dirtied an entire apartment beyond recognition within twelve hours of being there. Especially when I’d spent eight of said hours getting my beauty sleep. Floored, I followed Christophe into the kitchen where he was busy cleaning the skirting boards. I attempted to reason with him, only to be greeted with yet more obscenities in French. At this point he astutely concluded that the reason I wouldn’t clean was undeniably related to my nationality, and that in particular, British people are “dirty” and think they are “too good to clean”. He fervently insisted that he would not “let [me] sleep day or night until [I] fuck off”, before stating that indeed, we would fight each other until one of us either committed suicide or killed the other. Can you even begin to imagine how you would react to that? The first day in your new apartment, in a foreign country, and some middle-aged madman welcomes you by screaming abuse at you. He said some other things as well but my brain didn’t quite manage to process the French. I somewhat doubt I missed much.
By this point my preferred course of action was to “fuck this shit”, and as the French say, I decided “to break myself” (se casser = to leave). I had things to do that day, and seeing as I was up and about, and feared for my FRICKING LIFE whilst inside the apartment, I decided to start my day. Of course, the thirty minutes or so that I was absent were not completely uneventful – Christophe continued his game of predilection: “harass the new guy”, by sticking notes on my door and yelling more abuse in French at me. I decided to retaliate by screaming Mexican insults right back at him; it might not have accomplished much, but it proved ever so cathartic, I must say. Showered and dressed, I was ready to attack the day (and not attack Christophe, although I’d have been ready to do that too), and before I left the apartment, I stopped by my flatmate’s open door to courteously ask him if he wanted me to lock the door to the flat as I left. He formed a well-considered and eloquent response in English: “fuck off!” I kindly pointed out that as I was already leaving the apartment, there was little need to tell me to “fuck off”, as indeed, I was already do so. Alas my attempt to play teacher fell on deaf ears and a dumb brain. So, abandoning my impromptu lesson, I decided to heed Christophe’s words of wisdom, and off I fucked.
Reaching the entrance of the apartment block, however, I felt overcome by a niggling concern for the fact that I had left a good deal of belongings in my room. Of course, even having locked the door to my room, I feared that this guy had spare keys to everyone’s room or something, so I wanted to go back to at least be able take out anything of value. Thus, I returned to the apartment. Christophe was there, but he said nothing, and quickly retreated into his room. And my door? Well…the lock was completely fucked. Great.
To be continued…
PS. Want some proof of my flatmate’s deranged mental state? Hours of fun are to be had perusing his twitter feed (https://twitter.com/chrysdeblogue). Much of it is in French (incomprehensible), although you will be glad to know that he also likes to share his musings in English (even less comprehensible). My personal highlights are the following:
“ad then i almost hada fight with this dumb british too proud to be born somewhere that he just can’t clean a place inhabited by something else than britishes… i like english people for some , but then, i HATE typical britishes, lol… nothing moredificult than to get them doing ANY kind of cleaning, you are not british so you indeed are their slaves, something like that, that’s even why less and less landlords lodge them in france. If one the tunnel under the weight ofwater ad the ferry passengers realise that that big can float, like oil tanker (how do you want 500 000 or more tonns of oil plus metal could float without even a bulb of ar in it ?!?), then, if british peoples get stuck on the continent, i advise to give them only cleaning jobs , just nothing else, just for fun ! lol” – Christophe Chiffert, 31st October 2012, Rennes, France.
“money-obssessed vulgarous bourgeses bitches trying to rise my attention, since some days… even the shoes try to shut up …” – Christophe Chiffert, 17th October 2012, Rennes, France