I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Briarpatch is no protection

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.


  1. Is it possible for me to read the word 'intellectual' in your first paragraph and it no longer being there when I go up the post to read again?
    So, my comment as to me never having promised you to be there when you arrive would no longer make sense.
    -Of coourse I'm grinning-

  2. Roderick, there's something amiss with all links, including the comments thingy on your blog, when I'm using my usual browser, Firefox: Nothing works.
    So I've switched to Safari and now I'm able to comment.
    So, hello, bonsoir, bonjour and hi.
    I'd like to hear what the butcher's reply was to your bold declaration:
    "Oh Monsieur Roderique, vous ĂȘtes trop gentil" ?
    Or: "Beh"
    Or only a Gallic shrug as he carried on slicing cotelettes?

  3. Bravo. Always compliment the butcher! I had to of course look up each french phrase you put in this post. How can this be? My native dialect of German uses french-sounding sounds utilizing a large amount of nose, and yet the language of the french won't stick with me. C'est la vie.

  4. Natalie: I am delighted you persisted. I am using a Compaq netbook which dates back to 2005. I'd like to say the processor was steam-powered but the system precedes even that - say water-powered, based on the Archimedes screw. In short, it's slo-o-w. I brought it with me in order to start my new novel which has now passed 1000 words. Fine for word processing but a ball-and-chain for the Internet. However the villa has wi-fi and I thought, well, why not... If it's any comfort I'm also having problems accessing other people's blogs, especially Joe's. I shall try yours in a minute or two, when I'm finished here.

    The butcher is an enormous showman in his own right, given to long monologues addressed to his own intellect. As I embarked on my salutation - delivered in a shouty voice against which he could not compete - he ceased talking, screwed his eyes up shrewdly, listened to what I was saying, and then in a broad, silent gesture he swept his hand from me to the other customers and - cleverly - continued to say nothing. I had as it were spoken for him. In fact, he had won, not me. But I know how to give in gracefully.

    RW (sZ): I am astonished you languished since you are the last person on earth I would try to impress linguistically. Honest. I thought you had a smattering of French and that got you through. I don't have to tell you but "Making it stick" is the result of a little but regular practise. In fact I suffer from a similar ailment when it comes to German. All those verbs beginning with prepositions, I say defensively.

  5. Ellena: Don't know what you're up to but it sounds like just the sort of nonsense that's appreciated here at Tone Deaf. Rather like:

    As I was going up the stair,
    I met a man who wasn't there.
    He wasn't there again today,
    I wish to heck he'd go away.

    Keep the nonsense rolling in. As to grinning, you can't hear it. Laughing's better.

  6. Well I'm glad your hand-cranked, cognac-powered Ordinateur still works well enough to keep you in the so-called blogosphere, Roderick.
    But may I humbly suggest you GET A MAC? I don't work for Apple, by the way, but am hopelessly addicted to my machine.

  7. That greeting to the butcher sounds a little like flattery. You must have left the West Riding well and truly behind you. Or perhaps irony was hovering somehere at your shoulder.

  8. Joe: It was intended to sound a lot like flattery. Fulsomeness was what I had in mind. When a compliment goes to excess the recipient is faced with a dilemma: to take it at face value (and thereby risk looking a fool) or devise a response in roughly the same vein (thus extending the conversation - my ultimate aim). The butcher, rather cleverly, steered a course between the two.

  9. Natalie: The netbook was acquired because of its extreme portability and simply for use as a word processor. Alas, I was tempted to use it for Internetting for which it is too slow. But in just over a week I'll be back with the super-fast desk job you see in my heading picture and these problems will be pure history.

    You may humbly suggest a Mac but with equal humility I will reject that suggestion. During the last three years of journalism before I retired I used a Mac in combination with Quark Express. I was very impressed but regarded the Mac as completely irrelevant for my private use. This was in 1995 when Macs, by design, had enormous conmpatibility problems with the wider PC world. Also they were much more expensive. It seemed to me that the disadvantages (notably a shrunken range of useful software) outweighed the benefits. Gradually Macs became PC-compatible but during that same period PCs (with Windows) became much better. Once upon a time I used to like fiddling about with computers and sofware; these days I only want to use them.

  10. Tall, audacious, and quite funny.

  11. Beth: You do me much honour. But is "quite" being used in the English or the North American way?