By Xanthe Fuller
The season: Summer
The location: The beach
The cast: Boy (cute as can be) & me (crazy for aforementioned boy)
Points of contention: He said I ‘nearly drowned’, but really, he just jumped into the sea and started splashing around. Plus, his evasiveness about whether or not he had a car.
Oh wait! As is often the case, I have confused my own summer with the iconic summer described by Sandy in Summer Nights from Grease. I didn’t go to a single beach nor did I meet any heavily coiffed boys who love to dress in monochrome, but I wore a lot of pastel colours and enjoyed seeing in the summer evenings with the occasional apérol spritz – plus my entire summer was spent in Paris (aka City of Love) – so cut me some slack. But I’ll take this opportunity to parallel my summer with Sandra-dee’s in anticipation of the start of the new year and of the questions that I may be asked. (Hoping that by September 2018 I will have miraculously become the kind of cool girl who can integrate the phrase ‘tell me about it… stud.’ into daily conversation.) So here, ladies and perhaps gentlemen, is the story of my atypical summer of love.
As I have already casually dropped into this piece, I have been living in Paris this summer but actually it’s just a continuation of my year abroad. By 30thAugust, I will have spent an entire year – to the day – renting a flat in this wonderful metropolis and being eternally surprised by the fact that almost everyone around me is French. So, I thus confess that the first object of my affection is the city I’ve been living in. I am in no way revolutionary in writing about living in Paris (sorry for treading on your toes, Baudelaire). It’s the absolutely classic year-abroad location, but my feelings really developed from June onwards. Few students stay on for the summer and Parisians notoriously flee the city the moment that the breeze suggests that July is on its way, so I had the authentic summer-in-Paris experience of being largely abandoned. The summer months consolidated my love for the city, I got to know where you can find the drinking fountains that miraculously spout sparkling water, or the fact that some parks’ opening and closing times coincide with the rising and setting of the sun.
Summer here did bring something completely new though. My year was spent predominantly at university and waitressing on the side, but with summer came an expanse of time and opportunity. I chose – as many of us do and indeed feel obliged – to spend my summer doing an internship, prowling office corridors, sweating heavily on the morning cycle to work and lamenting the evidence of my skin’s exposure to vitamin D fading. But this internship actually turned out to be one of the most interesting and formative things that I have done so far. I was working as an editorial assistant for a TV show, a current affairs debate on prime-time weeknight television. I had the opportunity to do a wide range of things, from researching statistics and quotes to shape the discussion, to sitting in between the head producer and the editor-in-chief during the daily filming, wielding my laptop as a sort of justificatory golden ticket, as I sent off the latest dispatches to the editorial team and googled any kind of query. I would have to find out the exact agenda of Macron on his state visit to Austria in the drop of a hat or aggressively nudge my boss about a new development that might change the direction of the debate. Although my role was in French, I would occasionally be called in, as the resident Anglophone, to help with the pronunciation of something particular in English, e.g. hilariously, the pronunciation of Dr Dre… Each time I repeated the word back with a crisp English accent, people would gasp and say that I spoke English so well! All of the above might suggest to you – and rightly so – that I also got very into the world of broadcast journalism, and was also bemused by the fact that my mother tongue was exposed as a skill I didn’t realise that I already had.
And the final thing that I’m deeply enamoured with is friendship. Silly as it may sound. Friendship came in many forms this year, from finding new foreign friends, to infrequent but extended phone calls with old friends. When summertime arrived and the French vacated the city, I was living with a very wonderful friend from Cambridge. We created a blissful little cocoon of domesticity and feigned adult life of sharing packets of salmon fishcakes and waiting for the weekend. However, I recently realised that I had not spent time in a group of more than two actual friends since June, a bizarre epiphany that hadn’t really crossed my mind.
Most of the time summer is just a pause, but for me it’s been a year-long break and bloody hell I’m ready to have multiple friends within walking distance and to accidentally bump into distant acquaintances in the milk aisle of the Sainsbury’s. This year has given me space to realise how much I’m looking forward to being back in Cambridge, to the certainty of seeing friends and knowing that by the end of the year I will know more than I did at the start. I may have forgotten all of the hours in the library and deadlines that come with the return, but I actually can’t wait for it all to begin again. Ask me about this in May and we’ll see whether I’m still all sunshine and rainbows about my return, or whether I just nonchalantly respond with (what will by then be a trademark phrase): ‘tell me about it… stud.’
Photos are author’s own.