Along for the ride:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Big-Toe Soup

I don't think that I have mentioned so far that I am able to make a fool of myself in more than one language. Most of my schooling was in England where one is obliged to study French in Middle School, if not before. Anyone showing any propensity for languages is then further weighed down by German lessons. Those who struggle are allowed Spanish, which is not only considered an easier class, it is accomplished in half the time and, in addition, there were stories from school field trips to Madrid and Barcelona which included escapades with cute Spaniards. It seemed as though the "Popular Girls" went to Spain.
My parents moved around for work and I found myself changing schools every so often. Being the new girl in an all girls school during early teens is no fun. Couple that with leaving a French class that had not yet covered the Future tense and arriving in a class that was so over all that sounded the death-knell for my enthusiasm for all things francais.
When it was finally time to pick electives I dropped French like a "pomme de terre tres chaud" (hot potato). Reasoning: stupid language full of coughing and spitting and why would I want to visit a country with nothing to offer but some funny tower? And what was that guy Eiffel thinking anyway?
Fast forward a few years and, after freezing my butt off in Northern Germany for a couple of years, I headed for a job in the sunshine of Southern France. I had only been there three weeks when I met the man of my dreams. Of course our relationship was harmonious, we couldn't speak each other's languages!
Looking back I am still unclear on how we got together but I recall copious amounts of rose wine and the chemistry of youth. He was an honest to goodness French Artist. How romantic was that?
It turns out that I am a language sponge. I can't apply myself to book-learning but put me in a country with interesting people whom I wish to get to know and I absorb the language du jour; although without some of the gramatical niceties.
Back to the Future...tense..."Speaking French like a Spanish Cow" (that is what the French call pidgin). If I wanted to make a date or ask about the future in any way I would speak in the past participle, wave my arms around and repeat demain, demain (tomorrow, tomorrow).
On another couple of years, still living in France with my Artist, although we had a few serious arguements once we realized we disagreed on just about everything. His kids over for dinner; Suprise! He has four off-spring almost my age so dinner for them and boy-friend/girlfriends meant a crowd of ten to cook for a couple of times a week and great difficulty getting the chatter to slow down enough to wait for me to get a word in edgewise.
The conversation turns to food. Food, sex and politics are the standard French subjects of discussion. They all agree that they are the Worlds best at the first two and have a million opinions about the third.
Back to food. We are discussing the herbs and such that grow wild and are worthy of inclusion in many dishes. Thyme, rosemary, mushrooms, dandelions, sorrel etc. No-one buys them, they are waiting in the countryside to be collected. Stinging Nettles are mentioned as a homeopathic cure for something and I venture to join in. "In England", I say. "In olden times, people made soup from Nettles." Which would have been a reasonable conversational gambit if Nettles (orties) and Toes (orteils) didn't transpose themselves in my addled brain and give my French family such hilarity to remember again and again and again over the subsequent years.


  1. And there I was not anticipating the least bit of laughter before retiring for the evening...

    "Thierry L'Hertimage" anyone?

    à demain, ma chère

  2. Tres amusant. We get quite a few non English speaking patients from Africa and my high school French is minimally handy--once told a patient his "medecin"(Doctor)was in his IV bag and soon he would be taking it by mouth. oooops...