I have been enjoying some R&R with the Textiliste in the Var region of France at the villa of some old, if not quite ancient friends. I love France for being so close and yet so bloody contrarian and different from we on the sane side of the Ditch.
But there is one thing I will never enjoy and that is french. Not that I’m against them owning their own language. Nor is it lacking in any merit. It is because, despite the State’s best efforts to educate me in its intricacies I will never sound anything other than half witted.
It is the same for all languages beyond English. I can say my name, ask the way and order two beers in five languages and at 18 that took me a long way. But now I have added 40 years to that total I don’t want to sound ill educated. It is a mix of arrogance and pride and snobbery none of which does me any credit but I cannot deny the truth.
So take Saturday. Ok it didn’t start well seeing as Dick Head Tours re – emerged after a lull since last August. It would take too long to explain now how my father christened my organisational incompetence thus. Suffice it to say it was with good reason. An example is described in this post.
Why does the Textiliste let me book flights? Because I did that ok. I even coordinated it with the Vet (or the Vet-Baker as she wants to be known). So we shared a cab to Heathrow. She and her boyfriend were leaving from a different terminal so we were all dropped off at T2 with time for a coffee, croissants and final farewells. In the week of the awful Germanwings horror it was more intense.
We waved goodbye and headed for the underground link to T1. Ten minutes.
‘Bit odd,’ volunteered the Textiliste when we saw how empty it was.
‘Look, there’s the queue,’ said I joining behind a large school party going skiing.
‘You’d think, first day of the Easter – or keeping it secular – Spring Break – there would be more schools and families. ‘
I was developing one of those cold sticky shirt sweats. We pulled out the paperwork and I gave it to her. Her fickle finger arrowed in on our departure. T5. We were landing at T1 in Nice. I had read it wrong. We had 45 minutes to get all the way across Heathrow, check in with all those thousands of schools and families, clear customs and make our gate.
Not a prayer. That ignores the other feature of Dick Head Tours. I’m a ‘lucky little bleeder’ per my dad. We did make it though not before being told twice we had missed it.
I worried that out luggage would not catch up but they assured me it would.
Hmm. My instinct proved to be accurate. Not only was our luggage not on the carousel in Nice but so were about half the flight missing theirs. I can’t help feeling our unholy sprint may have had something to do with it.
So you see I had to spend a while sorting out the mess. And I did it all in English, bookended with Bonjour and Merci. I wish I could have managed some in French but honestly I would have been wasting everyone’s time.
It is awfully complacent and a dire criticism of both my education and attitude. It won’t change and it will mean I am more comfortable travelling to places where English is the first or a very close second language. I see more, relax more and get more out of my holiday that way. Which is a shame. A great unnecessary shame.
If you still have the time and inclination to learn a second language do. Only then will we really shrink this world and understand each other. Only then…