Monday 20 November 2023

Getting away with very little

Andouillettes; best say they're misunderstood

The good news from Mr Blazej, (see “Early Christmas card…”) triggered a winter problem: booking a holiday villa for next year. Since several family members will accompany us this is costly. Also there’s time enough for good news to become bad news in the interim. When do I take the plunge?

Since I’m paying, I choose, and for the last two decades it’s been France. Lack of imagination? No; I get to speak French. Others loll on beaches, get drunk on cheap wine, marvel at the countryside, discover that andouillettes don’t bear contemplation, tour the soccer stadia, exercise their culinary skills… I do the parly-voo.

Obviously to show off, you conclude. But here’s the thing. During those twenty years perhaps a dozen French people, from various strata of society, have said I speak French well. Since language has been my tool of trade I can say, with certainty, they were wrong. Close-up my French is fairly primitive; at best stiffly formal.

I’m sure about this because I’ve taken weekly lessons for thirty years and know when progress bogged down. Not all French people are articulate; if they were they’d say I’ve entertained them with a linguistic competence halfway between O-level and A-level. 

More particularly I’ve made them laugh. Laughing, they’re less likely to nit-pick about the subjunctive.

Knowing me as you do, you’ll have realised I’m not abasing myself here. What I do is a rare skill and I’m damn well proud of it. On one occasion, and with time to spare, I tried to explain the situation to a Frenchman far better educated than I was. Silence happened. Accepting my premise would have made him look a fool. Disagreement would be based on an untruth. We went our separate ways.

Might this be cruelty?


  1. You've taken weekly French lessons for 30 years? When you make a commitment, it's real, real, for real.

  2. Colette: If you know of a shorter way I'll make you rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

  3. Accept the good news for what it is and make all your arrangements as normal RR.

  4. Avus: The two matters are contingent. The good news opens up the possibility VR and I will be well enough to do France some nine months ahead. To book a villa that will meet our specialised (ie, age influenced, plus other dependent concerns) needs could cost about £7000. But nine months is time enough for either of us to become unwell. And thus to lose money that could be better spent on more unforeseen domestic circumstances. I'm not short of a bob or two but I hate waste. Also there are levels of ill-health; being well enough to go France but not well enough to enjoy myself. And there's more.