En Vacannes

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.

Al fresco in Seillans

Al fresco in Seillans

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…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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17 Responses to En Vacannes

  1. Norah says:

    You always tell a good story, Geoff. I’d love a book of Dick Head Tours. What a treat that would be! Whether a full-length novel or a series of shorts – what fun! I’m pleased we didn’t encounter them the day we met up in London. Quite the opposite in fact! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. willowdot21 says:

    Sadly most of us English are the same, I have a smattering of French and German and a tiny bit of Italian. I can get by, but like you I hardly learnt any of those at school. At my school the options were French or Latin! I was deemed to dumb for Latin so French it was and I never got to grips with it. Too busy avoiding books, blackboard rubbers and insults about my intelligence from the teacher (same with maths…. It’s a wonder I learned anything .) But I digress I try and I get my but like you I would love to be fluent in one or all of those languages.
    As to your tour arranging prowess I have read about your holiday cottage debarkle and it worked out okay as was this trip. You should rename your tour company to Be ready to adapt tours. Or seat of your pants tours.
    Lucky you it looks like a fabulous spot to visit. The video beautiful. Being older than you I going to take it upon myself to chastise you : photo number one I spy an unguarded wallet on the table while you are occupied with the photo! Consider yourself reprimand. 😉
    In our defence my sister has a house in Spain and she has been learning Spanish for about 5yrs and she is rather good and she is in her 70s.
    If your home ( did the return flight go well) welcome back, if not , dear Texiliste, Vet Baker and boyfriend be prepared to adapt!
    Great post hope you do not mind my rambling commentarycomments. xxx


    • TanGental says:

      You are right about the wallet. Sorry mum! And thank you for the great comment. Latin. Now that’s a post in itself. I had a series of weird Latin teachers. And you are right about language learning. My dad started when he retired and became pretty fluent.


  3. willowdot21 says:

    PS couple of auto corrections in my post . Damn phone obviously thinks it knows better than me!!
    And Norah is right a book or set of posts on dickhead tours would be amazing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel M says:

    I’m not even 40 yet and I’m even worse than you. I can’t even really be bothered going to non-English speaking countries any more because I can’t be assed flaffing about with the language. Given the choice, I’d rather holiday somewhere in Britain. I have been to lots of non-English speaking countries and once upon a time I would have loved the chance to experience a different language and to try speaking it but I just can’t be bothered any more. Perhaps there’s also an element of still having lots to explore in Britain since I’ve only just moved here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Autism Mom says:

    After a week in France in my 20’s, staying with a French family who were oh-so-patient with my need for English and truly pathetic attempts at French, I got up one morning and, barely awake, started speaking effortless French to my host. Aha! That was the trick! Not being fully conscious!

    I hope you are all having a wonderful trip, and I echo both Willow and Norah: A Dick Head Tours book, please, and get that wallet off the table!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sacha Black says:

    Is it bad that I basically sniggered the whole way through?

    In my defence I was laughing with you. I am THE most organised person but I tell u what. I am simply incapable of booking foreign travel.

    In my time, I have booked the wrong dates wrong hotel and wronf transfers (all on one holiday, repeatedly made two of those mistakes over again on the same trip) I have booked the wrong hotel on at least two holidays. I’ve booked the wrong annual leave, fucked up airport parking dates and even turned up at the wrong airport.

    Honestly I am the single worst person to book a holiday with! I’ve given up these days!

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      I want to give up but my family are either ridiculously neurotic (theVet-Baker) or so laid back we would never get away (both Textiliste and Lawyer) so to save the little Miss exploding or me tearing my few strands out I bravely do it each time, and each time there is that awful dread…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s great. (For a fun read, not to experience.) 45 minutes to get all the way across Heathrow? Hahaha! 😀 Gates and baggage… Still, I am envious that you’re in France. Enjoy your time there. Order some beers in French. Agreed, we should all learn more languages. I’m teaching my 8-yr-old French (he’s also learning Spanish and Mandarin). He loves foreign languages. My 10-yr-old…I’m working on him. He’ll at least be as good as you. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Bacon sarnies at the Tivoli | TanGental

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