FRANCE: THE REASON You could say I am where I am because of the weather, the food, the wine, the scenery or the possibility of spotting an intellectual. All are true, of course, but none matches my secret perversion: a desire, edging on mania, to talk to French people in their own language. To amaze them with an unexpected opening phrase, to disagree with their recommendations, and then slip in something which makes them laugh – despite themselves!
Half an hour ago I entered the butcher where riz de veau is shamelessly on display and announced loudly: “A year has passed and here I am at the best butcher in the Languedoc.” (Note: I would never disagree with a butcher.)
I hear you all, out there in Blogoland, groaning with irritation, saying listen to the old blowhard, showing off, covering up his lack of education, boasting about something that none of us may check. Because you imagine I am a fluent francophone.
It's not true. My French is virtually non-idiomatic, hindered by an accent born in the geographical equivalent of a sty, limited to a few simple tenses (which don't include the subjunctive), easily outshone by working-class patois, and frequently tripped up by an imperfect knowledge of the verb rendre.
But I do have one advantage: adherence to Danton's prescription: “l'audace, encore l'audace, et toujours de l'audace.” Which I'm sure you don't need me to translate. The French have devised a language which, like Brer Rabbit's briarpatch, protects them by its complexity. What they do not expect is someone taking the linguistic initiative. However barbarically. For precious moments they are cowed – for goodness sake, they listen! I am also quite tall.