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This is a question Out of my depth

As a schoolkid, I signed up for a public speaking contest purely as a ruse to meet girls. It haunts me still: in front of 300 people, I started to speak, dried up, stood there for what felt like half an hour staring at the floor and then slowly walked back to my seat. Oh, and the girl I liked laughed.

Have you ever been utterly, completely, devastatingly out of your depth?

(, Thu 14 Oct 2004, 15:07)
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It’s July 2001. As part of my university course I have to spend a year living in France…
I have my work placement sorted out, have saved up a bit of money and have all the overdraft, passport photos and positive attitude you could wish for. I have my car with me. I can even speak pretty good French (well, it was part of the degree). The one thing I don’t have is any realistic idea of how I’m going to find somewhere to live: I happily think that I’ll stay a couple of nights in a Formule1 motel (£15/night), find a flat and move in.

After a great week staying with my girlfriend (who had her flat sorted out and paid for by her employers), I go up to Paris and start looking. Of course, the only time I’ve ever looked for somewhere to live before was in Birmingham for the second year (first year in campus halls) – and shall we say it’s a buyer’s market if you get in early (and don’t mind damp houses that smell of death and have temperamental heating).

Paris is a different kettle of fish. For one thing, it’s a touch expensive compared to student slums in Brum. For seconds, I’m internet-less and hate using phones. So I basically buy a Michelin map of the south-west suburbs and drive around the town centres asking in estate agents, who are typically unhelpful. After four days of this, it starts raining and to cap it all I’m driving through Issy-les-Moulineaux in the evening (having eaten nothing but junk food and baguettes for a week, and not having done anything constructive all day) when I get a puncture. I realise I’m not getting anywhere (took me four days) and start going mad. Seriously, gibbering, having arguments with myself for not planning this and that or at least having found out where the hell you find small ads in France.

I then take a day off and decide to start enjoying being in France. I go into Paris itself for the first time, and phone my Dad who recognises a floundering son when he hears one and mounts a rescue mission, coming to Paris (thank you Air Miles), showing me a couple of pubs and generally restoring my sanity and confidence. He lends the use of his work mobile, with which I call my future employers, who give me a list of student-halls-type residences popular with English placement students. I move into one the next morning, going on to have, as is traditional, the best time of my life… Paris rocks.

Footnote: anyone doing something similar, just go here: www.pap.fr . Thousands of ads for places to rent, every week (Thursday). Buy it EARLY and get phoning.
(, Fri 15 Oct 2004, 18:07, Reply)

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