‘I walk around like everything is fine, but deep down inside my shoe, my sock is sliding off’. (Anonymous. But I wish I’d thought of it).
My socks have been quite well behaved lately, and I have no intention of letting them slide off any day soon. I prefer sparkly socks, and this week I’ve stuck to a theme of navy blue lined with silver thread (I have a collection of many things, including sparkly socks).
I’m slowly veering away from answering every question with ‘oui’ (this is sometimes extremely dangerous and sometimes clever), and a little wisteria creeper of determination has slid subtly into my subconscious – rendering me frozen from time to time, but mostly giving me a feeling of confidence (or is it bullishness?) in my approach to this language and overall, my life in general.
Yesterday, as with every day, I huffed up the four flights of stairs at La Sorbonne (my new addiction to baguette viennoise au chocolat sees a necessary daily standoff with the lift), before throwing myself into my regular chair in the corner – a place where I can unload my Mary Poppins-esque bag and take the spare desk beside me as a stand for my water bottle. The incredibly polite and ever humorous Japanese man who sits in front of me always has a spare piece of paper for exercises to be handed up the front, and each day I make a mental note to buy a perforated notebook. My leather bound Moleskin is slowly falling apart, but I quite like the routine of tapping Ju Ni Chi on the shoulder, and he is ever obliging.
Our professor is as beautiful as she is thorough and most importantly, she is determined that we’ll get it right. English is not spoken at any stage during any of the lectures, unless, on the odd occasion it is used to compare a word with no direct translation in French.
Yesterday, when the question was raised as to who would like to present first, I almost threw my hand through the window as it shot into the air. We’d been set an exercise the night before where we were to prepare a slide show of photos accompanied by a speech (en français) using the verbs to describe the things we love, like, fear, don’t like, detest and even hate.
Questions will be asked, so you must also come with a readiness to respond, we were told.
I was taught that hate is a strong word, but the French quite like to add smatterings of ‘je déteste’ into their sentences. Feeling challenged by what I actually hate, I found a picture of a python for the détester section of the presentation, and spoke of the clear and present danger they pose in Australia. I fumbled for words to describe growing up in the country and whooshing through long grass in Wellington boots, always feeling nothing short of petrified that a snake would slide inside. That part of the slideshow became challenging, so I skipped to what I knew best.
I love shopping for flowers at the market to put around the house. I adore the view from my apartment. I love walking the streets of this magnificent city – taking endless photos as I do. I love art and peering into the many galleries that fill the streets of Paris. I also adore sketching, and my collection of pencils is ever expanding. I enjoy collecting rubber stamps and I have started making stationary in my spare time. I love the Eiffel Tower at night, but in particular, when she is bathed in afternoon light. I love learning French and each day, I feel the tiniest bit more confident speaking French.
‘What do I fear?’ I pondered, before clicking down my presentation to a picture of rain flooding the streets of Paris. ‘I fear getting caught in the rain, but I love watching it fall, from the comfort of my window,’ I went on to explain.
The final slide was a collage of four beautiful little faces, ‘but most of all, I love these photos of my four nephews’.
Gasps of ‘tres mignon’ and ‘ooh la la’ filled the room and I laughed in agreement, before explaining that James is three, Johnny is one, William is three months ‘and this one is Albert, he is just one week old,’ which was met with cries of ‘ooh, très petite!’.
‘Which one is yours?’ a man asked from the front row.
‘They are all mine’ I smiled, before taking my seat, thrilled to have another presentation out of the way and this time, there was no mention of nor questions asked, about le kangourou.
This piece is titled ‘A Little One’ because it was always intended to be short and sweet, just like baby Albert. This is for you little man, and if ever you think that everyone is walking around like everything is fine, just remember that deep down inside their shoe, their sock may well be sliding off.
And, always be prepared for questions- regardless of the language in which they are asked.
Pictured: the Iron Lady looking over the Seine.