I have been having chats with a woman called Kathryn, up near Civray-On-The-Wold, the local centre of Anglaises. I’d cheekily nudged my way into her life via one of her companies, Accents, in Civray, which is a not-for-profit bilingual association for children of English parents who are worried about their children losing their English. You’d think it wouldn’t really happen, but it does. In less than one month of school, Jake is perfectly happy to communicate in ever-developing French, coming home, asking ‘what does A demain mean?’ and enquiring how to say various things in various ways. Funny to think only a week ago he was begging me to come with him to ask if Artur was playing out!
It has to be said, though, he’s still got a way to go. He came home with a book yesterday from the library – the children’s section! – which was decidedly rude! It’s based on a little boy, Titeuf, who is like a French Bart/Lisa. Sometimes he’s more Bart than Lisa. The first comic strip involves him asking his father who invented air, then asking his teacher what an abortion is, before asking his mother how you catch Aids. Jake, needless to say, particularly with some of the more graphic cartoons including a biologically accurate drawing of a penis and Titeuf accidentally falling over two people in flagrante delicto, was mortified. Honestly, I’m a little mortified. Surely someone should have put this in the grown-ups section? Or am I just being prudish??! I know the French have a more liberal view of sex education, but…
Honestly, some of it was funny. Because Titeuf can’t get an answer to these many important questions about life, he ends up playing a version of ‘tig’ where when you get tigged, you’ve passed on Le Sida (Aids) and one poor boy goes home to a shocked mother and tells her he’s upset because he’s got Aids and none of the other children will stand still long enough for him to pass it on.
In a view of how kids are, it was quite funny!
Anyway, back to Kathryn. She runs a smallholding with the usual sheep, goats, chickens and bees. I want to keep bees. She also runs an equine rescue centre. I want to run an equine rescue centre. She started a bilingual group. I want to run a bilingual group. Needless to say, I was giddy as a kipper when I came to meet her.
She’d brought her teacher, Alicia, with her. Alicia is also fabulous. Like me, she lives in a commune with no Englishers, and so her children are permanently immersed when outside the family home, in La Vie Francaise. It was absolutely great to meet two women who are uber-wonderful, doing great things in unconventional ways and totally in keeping with how I view myself – not as these old oxygen-thieving, sock-and-sandal-wearing, beige-shorts and checked-shirt-wearing, panama-hatted, grey-haired coffin dodgers who clog up Limoges airport with their namby-pamby southern ways and total ignorance to the world around them. Alicia, in fact, hails from Whitefield, where my Nana lived, and Kathryn, though a southerner, spent a long time in Newcastle.
We’d met in the PMU ‘Le Penalty’ in Mansle, a sleepy little ghost town that hasn’t really been able to resurrect itself post-deviation. The RN10 used to run through it - bringing business and traffic – but since the by-pass, it hasn’t been able to pick itself up. There are several sad shops with faded displays, a handful of estate agents, a couple of bars and a deserted high street. I’d planned to meet in Le Colibri, which is across the other side of the crossroads and has a little deck area – but it was shut. C’est la vie. The PMU is the local working men’s bar, complete with Loto and betting station. Spit and sawdust, a little, but we sat and chatted for 2 hours solid. It made me very excited.
Suffice to say, I can’t wait til next time and I can’t wait for our plans to unveil and come to fruition!