Il y en a dix!
I was an insecure and awkward child. Too tall, too shy, too quiet, and too many spots (I did so sympathise with Adrian Mole). The ensuing lack of self-esteem slowly decreased as I started to excel in small things. The first of these memorable moments was my French class, in the final year at Primary school.
My classmates were nervous, as a new teacher started using strange, incomprehensible sounds. We were taught the numbers and some words, and asked: ‘Combien de stylos y a-t-il sur la table?’, and we had to reply: ‘Il y en a dix.’ Everyone was amazed that Lucy, of all people, was the only pupil to understand and reply to all the questions with correct pronunciation.
My family used to visit relatives in Paris every summer, on the overland journey, on our way to Spain. I had picked up some French over the years, which I had never imagined would come in so useful!
This is a (very) old photo. I can’t remember where I am, but it’s obviously Paris, because you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background, on the right. I’m about fourteen.
I have fond memories of these long journeys, which started on the Golden Arrow, from Victoria Station to Dover, then a boat across to Calais, and a train again to Paris, where we’d stay for a few days, with my mother’s cousins, who had fled from Spain, after the Spanish Civil War. Then we’d continue on to Bilbao, by train, and from Bilbao to Santander, by coach. It took forever, but that’s how people travelled in the 1970s.
Being already bilingual, and a lover of languages, it was easy for me to pick up a third one. I was always ten out of ten at French. I went on to study Spanish and French (subsid.) at London University. Well, it was on the cards, wasn’t it? Pity that it’s quite rusty now, through lack of use…
Parlez vous francais?
Have a look at some of the other entries for this week’s Bite Size Memoir