Mademoiselle Catastrophe

Like it sounds, the French word catastrophe describes someone prone to calamity and disaster. Someone like me, maybe. Though I don’t quite ressemble Mr. Hargreaves’ creation.

Grace image
The monsieur at the ticket office may have been having a dyspraxic moment too… He miscounted my change, handing me 35 euros instead of five. This made my day, so merci à vous !

This week it was my birthday. I still remember how I felt during my first ever visit to Paris, a day-trip during a school exchange which coincided with my 15th birthday. On that day, I was ecstatic to taste my first tarte aux pommes sitting on a bench in the sunny Champs de Mars garden, and can only describe my memories as magical.

Six years later, just by myself sans teachers or friends, after work I decided to do something I have previously felt unable to do – ascend the 1063ft height of la Tour Eiffel in a lift packed full of tourists. I was surprised to feel so calm in a situation that used to cause me extreme unease. I was in awe of the beauty below me, and of the good fortune that had somehow brought me to this place on two of my birthdays. On the left is a picture of a very appropriate birthday present from my parents. I unwrapped it whilst up the tower, to the amusement of some tourists.

At work on the morning of my birthday, I was touched to find a selection of sweets, cookies, and even a German chocolate bar on my desk. On that note, I have been enjoying regular conversations with the native German assistant I mentioned before. Our exchanges are training my brain to switch between languages more fluently: I need English to greet a colleague from London, then French to answer the phone a minute later, and then German to distribute the post.

This sort of fast processing does not tend to come naturally, though, as many of you will understand. I had my worst disaster yet on Thursday afternoon, alone on reception since the receptionist’s departure for the Easter holiday. It was all happening at once – within five minutes the courier arrived, followed by two clients to greet (and they wanted coffee), then the phone started ringing, and I was halfway through writing an email, not to mention a translation. The colleague who was expecting the clients was visiting from the London office, so she didn’t have a fixed phone number. I set off to try and find her in person, abandoning the desk. She had to be somewhere in the office. I was rushing about like a headless chicken, and even opening the doors proved to be a challenge. They had been locked securely following complaints. I pushed and pulled with all my strength, and in my haste pressed a big red button next to the door. Only seconds afterwards did I see that this was a button solely for “cas d’urgence” / emergencies! I had triggered the emergency security system; alarms sounded and a concerned security guard on the voiceover was asking me what on earth was going on. “Tout va bien, tout va bien, j’ai fait une erreure, désolée désolée désolée.” Though the words didn’t flow fast enough. Since then, I have implemented an anti-catastrophe technique: I am slowing my pace right down. 

The family was away on holiday this week, which gave me extra time to sort out some bank-related complications, as well as topping up my SIM card. I also enjoyed spending time with some friends from university, school, and my time in Germany. On Saturday I took the train down to Nevers, a town situated along the Loire and famous for its ceramics. I plan to go on more day trips in the future to give me a rest from the often draining atmosphere and fast pace of life in central Paris. Fresh air helps my mental state.

I will be spending the Easter weekend in Brétagne (Brittany, region in the north-west of France) with the family, and I am already looking forward to it.

A tout à l’heure et bonne semaine,

misspraxic AKA Mademoiselle Catastrophe



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