We're of an age in my French class. I wonder what a voyeur would conclude: two neatly groomed women and a sprawling male who perhaps slept rough. An act of suburban charity?
P, a former languages teacher, is in charge. She's a Quaker, a faith well adapted to gentle correction. "Not quite," she says when my guess misses by a country mile. B, also a former teacher (eng.lit.), creates better anglicisations and doesn't test P's gentleness as much as I do.
I've been at it for just over ten years, P and B go back several years further. I answered a classified that may have included "love of French literature", leading to a strangely episodic phone conversation with P. I realise now P was engaged in a difficult task; trying to tell from my responses whether B would find me acceptable.
Each week B and I prepare about ten pages of our mutually agreed book, read alternating passages aloud for P and then translate them aloud rigorously. Concentrating on the more obscure verb tenses. Our present novel (Bienvenue parmi nous, Eric Holder) is especially demanding. The author likes to use familiar words according to their tenth least likely meaning. The sequence Cela était-il du au fait qu'il l'ait..." is made doubly difficult (for me, anyway) in that it is only part of a sentence and the final word (third person singular, present subjunctive of avoir - to have) may stand alone or qualify something yet to arrive.
The books are interesting but I major on reading aloud - getting the vowel sounds right. Many Brits don't bother.
I reflected recently that if I won lottery millions I'd still want to be part of the trio. For which P charges us each £5 a pop.