OK, so two weeks ago I began the long-awaited story about my psychopathic housemate. It’s time to continue our nostalgic voyage down memory lane. You can find part one of this post here:
So, when we left the story last time, I had just returned to my flat to salvage any items of valeur on the off chance that the charming chappy with whom I was co-inhabiting had a secret key to my room. I genuinely feared finding my room ransacked and ridden of all my worldly possessions and finding the walls smeared with faeces or something. Fortunately, this did not occur, and the door was still locked. Less fortunately, the lock maintaining the door’s status as “closed”, was now completely knackered. That’s right – the key entered the lock, and it turned…and turned…and turned…but there was no action. Bollocks. Despite the lack of obvious physical damage, it did seem a somewhat fishy that within the two minutes the lock had managed to inconspicuously “break itself”. Coup de pouce from a certain flat-dwelling maniac, perhaps?
Feeling it was best to avoid tackling the topic tete-a-tete style with Christophe, I fled to my office at the university, with nothing but my computer and the clothes on my back. Upon arrival, I frantically dialled the number of my landlady to recount the atrocities that had been occurring on her propriety, but to no avail, apparently she was busy sunning herself in Dubai. Similarly, the flat at this point had been abandoned by all others because it was half-term (Rule #1 of living in France. Show no signs of life during any type of holiday). As such, I resorted to panic-ringing my colleague Wes for help, who, along with our friend Azalea, accompanied me to the psycho-flat to confirm that, indeed, I was royally screwed. So, after a calm-me-down crepe (abundant in Rennes, never fear), we set about finding a locksmith.
Now, as many fellow linguists will probably know, locksmith vocabulary is rarely covered in one’s study of a foreign language. And in true fuck-you fashion, the Gods of French were not smiling down on me with this one either. The last thing I had any desire to do at this point in time was to explain my predicament in French to somebody I didn’t know. So, it would have been nice if the French word was locksmith had been something simple to pronounce for an Anglophone. You know, something with no nasal vowels or R sounds. Alas, the French language decided to take another shit on the day, as wordreference spat out the monstrosity that is: “serrurerie” . Yes that’s right, “lock” = “serrure”, “locksmith” = “serrurier” and “locksmith’s” = “serrurerie”. If you speak French, you can already feel my pain. Seriously. Try to pronounce that bloody word. If you don’t speak French, then, believe me, trying to say “j’ai besoin d’un serrurier pour me faire une ouverture” without covering your listener in gloopy coagulated saliva is no mean feat. A good alternative to “serrure” is “verrou”, which is almost just as phonetically nightmareous.
Anyway, enough with the linguistic woes – this is meant to be an uplifting post! So, I blagged my way through and managed to explain what I needed, and the next day a nice chap rocked up to bust my door in for me. When the serrurrererrzqxeerier finally turned up, he had my door open in minutes, telling me that the lock was basically cheap and nasty, the kind you buy at a supermarket. I paid him his 63 Euros and he was on his way. I had brought Wes along because I needed to evacuate all my belongings from the flat as soon as physically possible. Thus ensued the most ridiculous attempt to move one man’s entire life through the medium of the trusty Ikea bag. That’s right, having broken my suitcase the first day in Rennes, I was left with nothing but oversized novelty plastic bags designed to transport Swedish flatpack furniture. The trip was arduous, not least neither Wes nor I really possess the guns necessary to carry a man’s entire wardrobe, bedding, and other belongings, as well as a week’s groceries all in one go. However, undeterred, we soldiered onwards towards the Promised Land, a.k.a. the university, only stopping once every three seconds.
Now, the silver lining of all this faff, is that I had held on to the key for the university studio that I had been staying in before. Let it never be said (again) that I am an unintelligent man. Having not relinquished the keys, I was able to take refuge in the studio whilst I waited for my landlady to get back from Dubai so that she could basically sort my life out.
A few days passed, and the holidays came to an end. Jula, the German “prostitute” from my apartment (see post 010) that had also borne the brunt of Christophe’s tomfoolery, was back in town, with a vengeance. Actually, not so much a vengeance, she was just very confused that my room was wide open and devoid of human inhabitation. I met up with her for a coffee and filled her in on the latest Christophe goss “You’ll never guess who he’s been threatening now!” and such and such. Jula was really worried, and I had no clue what to do, so we decided to go to the police station to ask for some advice. Sadly, telling a long, complicated tale in a coherent fashion in a foreign language when there’s two of you is a fairly challenging affair, and neither Jula nor I seemed to articulate the story well enough to convince them of the craziness of the situation. Indeed, they seemed more pressed with the mountains of other people in the station. There’s not much to do on Sundays here, so people tend to wait until this day to file their numerous police reports at the same time. Gives them something to do, I guess. Either way, we figured that having our story on record (albeit with limited cohesion) was better than nothing, and anticipating that Christophe would continue his shenanigans, we knew now that we could just ring the police straight away. (This is foreshadowing btw…)
Now y’see, Jula was all concerned about going back to the flat alone, but needed to return just so that she could grab a few bags and go and stay with a friend. So I decided to accompany her. Upon arrival however, we were greeted with a hand-scrawled notice declaring “Danger!”, along with a hazard warning sign on the door. Furthermore, Jula’s key would no longer open the door. So, we knocked on the door, and this is what happened:
Christophe: “C’est qui?” (Who is it?)
Jonny: “C’est tes colocs” (It’s your housemates)
Christophe: “J’ai pas de colocs” (I have no housemates)
Jonny: “Si si, on vit ici aussi, Christophe, on a tous ses clés” (Yes you do, Christophe, we live here too, we all have keys)
Christophe: “Je m’en fous, allez vous en mourir” (I don’t give a fuck, fuck off and die)
As charming an exchange as this was, Jula and I didn’t hang around, and decided this was enough to give the police a coup de fil. Soon after, three officers rocked up, and as predicted, by this point Christophe had unblocked the main door to the apartment, meaning we could all enter freely. Fortunately for us, he had barricaded himself in his room, and started talking all kinds of crap to the police officers through the door. My French completely failed me at this point, but I’m pretty sure at one point he started accusing me of stealing his camera or something. Either way, the police officers didn’t have the authority to break down Christophe’s door, but they seemed fairly convinced that he was a few baguettes short of a boulangerie. Whilst we were there, I went into my room and saw that the few items I had left behind had been removed, and the furniture had been completely reorganised. Indeed, there were now three mattresses in the room, and a Leaning Tower of Pisa-esque stack of chairs on top of one of the mattresses. Although not an expert, I don’t think there’s a career in interior design in the future for Christophe. Anyway, realising Christophe was an utter loon, and hearing our stories of woe with him, the police officers apologised on behalf of the whole French nation and reassured Jula and me that not all people from France are completely off their rocker.
A few days later, my landlady was back in town, and a tad panicked having been bombarded by our messages of doom the week before. I was convinced that for some reason she wouldn’t believe us and nothing would be done, just because nothing else seemed to be going right, so why would this? But I was wrong; the landlady wanted Christophe out of there de toute suite. And so followed two more trips to the police station over the course of that week (God what a soulless place it is) All the previous tenants of the property went in order to testify to Christophe’s mental instability. The guy who took my statement was great, we chatted a bit about the UK and languages, and through some small miracle I managed to relay my entire, lengthy story in French to him, with a lot of emphatic “mais putain il est fou le mec !” To be honest, it was a very confusing and generally undesirable experience, and hopefully not one I will have to repeat.
Days later, the police went to the apartment to jump on Christophe as he exited, in order to take him for some much-needed psychological assessment. Apparently, however, the psychologist deemed Christophe “sane” at the time of judging (The search for said psychologist’s credentials continues…). As such, it was uncertain whether Christophe would be let free to terrorise a new generation any time soon or not. The landlady indicated to me that Christophe was schizophrenic and had not been taking his medicine, which definitely answers a lot of questions. Since the second week of November, fortunately, he has remained in a psychiatric hospital, and as far as I know, he is still there. But, it is impossible to know how much longer he’ll be there for. From his twitter, I see that he was granted internet access on the 28th of November, prompting this astute tweet:
“I am in jailed in psychiatric hospital for falses reasons.Please help… CHRYS”
In addition to the aforementioned police report, I also had to write a letter to the landlady’s solicitor affirming that I was forced to leave the apartment due to Christophe’s behaviour. Unfortunately, as the owner of the property she now faces a foe even bigger than Christophe: French bureaucracy. It’s crazy, according to the police at the station, she technically doesn’t have the right to kick this man out of her property, in spite of his brazen flouting of the tenancy agreement, clause 1, paragraph 1: “Don’t be a fucking mentalist”. Far be it from me to understand or criticise French law, but if she simply changed the locks on the apartment, he could sue her. Now THAT is fucking nuts.
Although I have made two very snide-for-comedic-effect posts relating to this whole ghastly experience, I am struck by the issues that it raises relating to mental health in our society. It might be easy for me to laughingly joke afterwards about living with ‘a maniac’, but do we really take mental health as seriously as we should? I say this because, no matter what happened to me or Jula or anyone else, the person who really is suffering is Christophe. And, although I never wish to hear of him again, I do truly hope that he receives effective treatment for his condition, both for his own well-being and that of those around him. To meet somebody who is clearly very unwell mentally is rather harrowing, and when someone behaves in such a way as he did, it becomes obvious that it’s not just a difference in personalities, but a real problem.
So then, what’s the conclusion to the accommodation saga? Well, I am delighted to say that there is to be a happy ending, after all. After a couple of weeks wallowing in accommodation-related self pity, I was given news by the landlady that a room in one of her other properties was freeing up in January. Knowing that I was still going to be homeless if I didn’t find a solution, she offered me the room, which I went and visited. It’s cheap, it’s nice, I spent twenty minutes there without being threatened by the current tenants, and I signed my contract just a few days ago. I am over the moon, and will be moving in when I get back to France in the new year. So. Here’s to being happy, mentally sound and having a roof over one’s head.
Ciao for now
PS. I am so crazily disappointed that this is only my 11th post – otherwise it would be blog 012 on the 12/12/12 – and 12 is my favourite number! I was tempted to skip 011, but I’m so anal about it that it would just bug me to know that I’d cheated the system…I’m such a freak. Adiós