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.
‘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.
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:
Here I am: