Tag Archives: architecture

My French Connection

Hi ho, hi ho,

It’s off to France we go.

With a hop and a skip,

And a tunnel train trip,

We’re off to Wimereux.

It was actually four weeks ago that we went but I couldn’t replace go with went and make it rhyme.

On the verge of giving up on my French lessons, I remarked to himself before the trip, ‘I’m hopeless at French, I can’t remember anything. What’s the point of learning if you can’t remember?’

I’m the dummy in my ill-advised advanced class who tries to keep a low profile and goes home to look up the same words and phrases over and over again, then crams for the next week and writes little cheat notes I hide in my notebook. I was going to give my brain one last chance to redeem itself on a five day trip to the French coast, not far from where the train spits us out in our car.

I got on surprisingly well at hotel check-in leaving himself dumbfounded as I spoke in secret code with the receptionist.

‘What’s happening?’

‘I’ve got the key, the lift is over there and we’re on the third floor, room 307,’ and I strode off self-importantly. I gained confidence with each shop and restaurant encounter, even responding in French when I was spoken to in English.

My only disappointment was at tourist information where I asked about local walks speaking politely in French. The assistant threw a stream of unintelligible gobble-de-gook at me even after I asked her – in French – to speak more slowly. I grabbed the map she’d been jabbing at for reasons only known to her and left, bemused at her insensitivity working as she was at a seaside holiday resort close to the tunnel and ferry port of Calais, one of England’s main entries to France.

Perhaps she just doesn’t care for les anglais. Not that I’m English but she wouldn’t know that as we didn’t chit-chat and exchange pleasantries. I wasn’t able to tell her that my father had served in the American Army, landed at Normandy, fought for and was wounded for her country and she had better buck her ideas up.

beach toys
No sand castles in France – only sand châteaux

On the lookout for stamps on our last day I popped into a likely looking shop and asked. Himself stood by as I showed off my language skills. When we stepped out onto the street he said, ‘She said to go to the tabac. It’s just down here on the right,’ and he pointed it out to me. Hmm.

The tabac was only able to supply stamps for Europe but I was directed to the post office for stamps for the U.S. Feeling pleased with my French conversation I stopped to browse some English language newspapers for a bit of light relief before leaving the shop. Himself looked up from The Times and said, ‘She told you to go to La Poste, back to the church and turn right.’

Well! He dredged that up from two years of schoolboy French *! years ago!

I wasn’t feeling so clever then so went for a little nap on the promenade. Can you see me? Look closely:

Wimereux promenade, France

Here I am:

Wimereux promenade, France

 

How Many Santas?

A staggering number of Santas turned up in Ipswich Town centre for a 3K ( 3 kilometres, about 1.8 miles) Santa Run (or in our case walk). The weather was kind. It rained before the fun run. It rained after the fun run. It was dry long enough for aging, out-of-shape Santas to walk (swiftly I have to say in my defense) around the town and not have our red Santa suits bleed all over our clothes.

We were running/walking in aid of EACH, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, a charity that supports families of and cares for children with life-threatening diseases – a worthy cause with a light-hearted fund-raising angle.

Of course Santa is cold. He needs a warm up:

We then made our way to the start, the elite runners with the latest running gear on under their Santa suits at the front and the cheaters who pretended to window shop (c’mon, who would believe that? We were in Santa suits) alongside them.

And they’re off! This photo of slightly drunken appearance was taken on the move as we set off at a cracking walking pace:

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Donner? Blitzen? Comet? Cupid? Well, it’s not Rudolph!

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The pack thinned as the culturally-minded amongst us slowed our pace to admire the architecture while Mrs. Claus on the right shouted at her little elves named “Stop-right-there!” and “Get-back-here!”:

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One little elf returned but remained anonymous:

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The finish line soon loomed ahead and it was difficult to rein ourselves in but but we maintained our composure only splitting the Santa trousers a little bit at the crotch in our haste.

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After receiving a well-deserved bottle of water and a medal which should have been inscribed “You finally got here!” I turned to look at the building opposite. I have walked down this street and all the streets of Ipswich hundreds of times, intent on my next errand, and never looked up. ***

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How many Santas? 260 of us!!! A wonderful sum of £7,000 was raised. If you would like to add to that total please press HERE to follow the link.

*** The lovely timbered-framed building above is quite modern by English standards and is of no historical value. However there are, I have discovered to my shame, buildings of great beauty and historical value mixed in with, under the facade of and often above the ugly modern shop fronts and office buildings.

The Great White Horse Hotel dates back to the 16th Century and King George II, King Louis XVIII of France and Lord Nelson have all stayed there. Dickens, after staying there, used the hotel as the setting for a scene in The Pickwick Papers. The timber-framed hotel is hidden under a bland Georgian facade and is now, sadly, a Starbucks.

The Cornhill, the square in front of the Corn Exchange, has been the town centre since Saxon times! Graves unearthed in the town recently date back to the 7th Century. The spot where we danced uninhibitedly in silly Santa suits has been the grim scene of stocks and pillories, people (including a witch) burnt at the stake as well as a priest hung drawn and quartered in the 17th Century.

Shopping will never be quite the same. I will constantly be looking over my shoulder for the Witchfinder General.