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#2 - The Clown Diaries - Double Zero

It's Friday morning and our flat is in a state of crisis.

Tom is ironing, Ryan is straightening*, Greg is upstairs practising to smoulder in front of his girlfriend, and half an hour ago we had a trouserless Lithuanian in our kitchen with just his pants on trying on several pairs of trousers. I'm dressed like Morticia Addams.

The reason? Gaulier has told us we have to be ELEGANT and SEXY for today's Autocore. In other words, we have to wash. All fifty pupils in first year will have to take turns to walk on their own, glamorously, in front of everyone, like models on a catwalk and advertise a product of their choice. It may not sound like much, but it's put the fear of god into almost everyone. Especially me, as I have the major problem of being incapable of walking in a straight line. This has always been an issue since an early age, but more so this week as, because of my dyspraxia, I have accidentally fallen down the stairs injuring both my feet. So now I have a similiar gate to Paul Sheldon after he's been hobbled by Annie Wilkes in Misery.

The challenge is also terrifying, as physically I do not feel my most body confident. After nearly 3 weeks of living in France I can conclude I am entirely made out of baguette. Ryan, Greg, Tom and I have fallen headfirst into french stereotypes. Our kitchen table is a celiac vegan's worst nightmare. There is saucisson everywhere, sludgy remnants of boursin and fractured crumbs of once happy whole baguettes.

We are trying to conquer our gorging by attending the popular lunchtime ABS CLUB at the school. The name sums it up. It's 20 minutes of trying to do handstands, planks and stomach crunches, led by the second years. It's effectively the only society outside of class we have. However, I keep on forgetting to go, because I'm too tired after all the bread I've eaten.

Outside of house eating habits, the school is going well. This week we have been focussing on the 'chorous' and the balance between body and voice when we move and perform alongside one another on stage. I've only had cold water poured over me once, had an 'atomic bomb' dropped on me twice and I've not yet been made to sing in front of the class in a foreign language, so overall, I've come out lightly.

Gaulier, as a teacher, is the master of the put down and the modest compliment. If he tells you something is 'Not bad', well done you - it's often the highest praise he can give to a student in class. However, his offences when he doesn't like something can be both confidence castrasting and beautifully funny. From asking a fellow student to pour water over your head, or asking a felllow student about your performance "Was it terrible? Fucking terrible? Or Fucking Fucking Fucking terrible?" . The worst is the 'Double Zero' - which, when given out at the Autocore is greeted with an 'ooh' from the students in pantomine fashion.

Next to Gaulier, our second charismatic teacher is Carlo. A very well put together french Stretch Armstrong who enjoys speaking in poetic riddles and who, as Chloe in our class pointed out "Looks strangely similiar to a young Billy Crystal". To visualise him - he's Mr Fantastic in jogging bottoms, with a drum, making you do odd things with balloons.

Overall, the second week has sped past, a freshers flu has started to spread and everyone who lives in the town is beginning to get cabin fever. It is a lovely community in Etampes*, yet despite its canals, sweet cobbled streets and the castle, after you have visited the huge supermarket and drunk in all of the three bars in Etampes, opporunitites for adventure can seem limited.

One example of the modest events on offer is the fact that despite how out of the four of us in our house one of us is atheist, the other homosexual and one jewish, we have all collectively started attending Catholic Mass on Sunday. We decided it not only gives us a good opportunity to meditate, give thanks, wake up early, put on our 'Sunday Best' and get to know the community, but church is also one of the best ways of learnging French. Also, it turns out that John the Priest is from the same part of Ireland as my family is, so we've all exchanged numbers and agreed to all go to the pub one weekend.

Must go now, I need to practise my walk,

Until next week!

*his hair.

** Every day a small child has played outside our window, shooting a fake gun at us - Indians vs Cowboys style. Originally all four of us joined in, with our own mimed guns and cowboy noises. Then yesterday he actually went and got small miniature bullets and harder things to shoot at us. That's when we decided it was time to close our window and contemplate why he's not in school,

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