Read the first part first, obviously...
I went to play badminton with Cecile and Nick. Cecile had been at her father's birthday party and had drunk some wine. This made her even more inept at the game than usual. I tried saying things like "Oh, good try!" and "Nearly! You'll get it next time!" Strangely, she didn't like it.
Later, we went to their place to have fondue. I didn't really want to go, because their flat is really far from the rest of society. It's like going to Albania. On a goat. They promised me that it was really simple to get there. "You can take this train or that tram or even a bus. It's sooo easy!" Then they spent fifteen minutes showing me an iPhone app with all the super-easy routes we could take.
So we took a train, got out, waited in the cold, took a tram in the direction of a bus stop, then suddenly decided we could take another train. This involved a mad dash across several busy roads, with my badminton racquets slapping me in the back of the head at every step.
I didn't say anything.
We finally arrived at their flat a mere thirty minutes later than they'd promised. I sat down to relax a bit before the fondue was served. "Cut this!" demanded Cecile. She'd placed a cutting board, a sharp knife, and a loaf of bread on the table. "Cut!" she barked. I thought of lots of things to say in reply, but didn't say them, because of Nice Week.
"Hmm," said Nick, ominously.
"Quoi?" asked Cecile.
"We don't have any fondue gel, a basic requirement for making fondue. Well, we have one. But it has evaporated."
|Left: gel at Chez Butcher Right: one of the many full tubs at my flat|
I stared at the empty tub in astonishment. My mouth opened, but I closed it again, and stared at all the bread I'd cut. Maybe we could just put ketchup on the bread cubes. Maybe it'd still be nice.
Nick was undaunted. "I'm going to put a tea candle under the caquelon. It might be hot enough."
|My reconstruction of the tea candle/caquelon incident|
With about 8 tea candles artfully arranged under the caquelon (generating more than enough heat to slightly melt a marshmallow), Nick brought the cheese in. I eagerly speared a cube of perfectly-cut bread and dipped it into the cheese. Or at least, a substance with the colour of cheese. What emerged from the bowl was a damp, oily piece of bread. I redipped the bread and stirred the mixture. There was some cheese in there somewhere, if you poked around long enough.
"Um, Nick," I said, politely, "I think maybe you forgot the corn starch?"
"Ah, yes!" he said, snapping his fingers. "I did." He lifted the rapidly-cooling caquelon from its frame and brought it back to the kitchen, where he began adding corn starch, stirring the yellow mess, and saying, "Hmm... perhaps a little more." Again and again, for about ten minutes. At this point I began to wonder if the whole evening was a stress-test of the Nice Week concept organised by Nick and Cecile, or even one of those hidden camera TV shows.
"Um..." I said, wondering how to be nice about this. "It smells good, though!"
When I got home, I found a message from a friend called Terry. "This Anna girl, if you could package that smile and sell it, you would be a millionaire."
I sent the quote to Anna. It would be the first thing she read when she woke up.
DAYS FOUR + FIVE
I was nice both days. Almost. I did have a slight slip-up when a student told me he'd tried and failed to invite me to his Facebook event, claiming the email link didn't work. (For anyone not on Facebook, this involves copying and pasting a link, which is utterly foolproof.)
I became so exasperated I started to splutter, but became progressively more calm as my Nice Week training took over: "What?! I mean, just, just, it's so... but that's fine. It could happen to anybody."
I even managed to keep my cool when I was rudely awakened at the ungodly hour of 09:30 by a phone call. "Andrew speaking, how can I help you?" I said sweetly.
For some reason I decided to dress up for work, even wearing a waistcoat and my best shoes. I didn't really see how looking nice fit into the Nice Week concept, but it seemed to work. It felt right. I bumped into a gorgeous au pair I'd met a while back and she was so taken with my niceness that she invited me out for a drink. High five!
DAYS SIX + SEVEN
Niceness was now becoming commonplace. My default reaction to anyone saying anything was to pause and think about how I should reply. It didn't seem like such a bad way to live one's life.
I had dinner with Anna and Lisa, and didn't say anything mean to them the whole time. I even gave them some nice compliments about the largeness of their breasts, even though they didn't do anything to earn that compliment. It's true that I left early because of the strain placed on me from working so hard not to be a dick. But still, I think they appreciated me trying to be nice.
Anna told me that the 'smile' compliment I'd passed on to her had 'made her day.' I told Terry. He was having a bad day, and the fact that he'd made Anna's day made his day.
I can't say that it made my day, but it didn't cost me anything to pass on the messages, except a fractionate amount of time. And Anna booby-bumped me (deliberately, I think). So it was worth it.
On the last night of Nice Week, I had drinks with the au pair and five of her young female friends. It was as pleasant as it sounds, and as the two of us waited for her bus home to come, I gave her my blue Nepalese woolly hat, because she was cold.
"That's so nice of you," she said.
"When I first met you," I said seriously, "I thought you were really attractive." She looked pleased. "But now I've seen you in that ridiculous hat, I don't think I'll ever be attracted to you again."
Nice Week was over.