You will forgive the rambling nature of my words, but I am currently going through the weird and slightly surreal ‘In between Christmas and New Year’ period, when we are still trying to eat our weight in Cadbury’s Roses and finish off the last bits of Christmas Dinner. The time when we feel we should be doing something festive, even though in truth, we just want it to end and get back to eating less and being on our own once more.
The main subject of my first degree is French literature. I studied at Hull University. It was an exceptionally interesting degree and the languages department at Hull was one of the best. It is such a shame that Universities are now struggling to make ends meet and I have recently read that there is a very real chance that the Languages Department at Hull will no longer take on any more students except for degree courses in Chinese. This is such a huge shame. I loved my time in Hull and I often wish that I could go back and restudy it all over again, when I would appreciate the course more than I did as a naïve eighteen-year-old girl from a single-sex school. The literature course I did was varied and covered a range of novelists and texts from Medieval times right through to the Twentieth Century. My favourite area of study was the Novel from 1800 onwards. I adored Flaubert, Zola and of course the later novelists such as Sartre and Camus.
As part of my degree, it was taken for granted that you could speak and write French fluently. We were sent abroad for a year to work as English Assistantes and write a thesis on an aspect of French life. Then when we returned to Hull, we were given an exam of prose in which we had to translate an incredibly difficult passage into French. I still have my thesis and I find it incredible to see my knowledge of French in 1989. I doubt I could even write a page in French these days, as like most things, age has not been exactly kind to my fluency in speaking and writing French.
In 2019, I am going to celebrate my 50th birthday. I had a long think about what I wanted to do to mark this momentous event. I enjoy socialising, but I also enjoy spending time with my family. I have decided that as much as I love Haworth, and as much as I would quite like a party, what I would really love to do is to return to Nice in the South of France. It’s my favourite place to be. I love sitting overlooking the beach front and the Promenade des Anglais and people watching. As someone who suffers from extremely bad hay fever, going to the area instantly clears up my allergies. There really is no place like it on earth. The sea is the most magnificent Topaz blue and I love everything about Nice from the magnificent museum of Marc Chagall to the somewhat suggestive men selling ‘pistaches’ nuts to holiday makers on the beach in their skin-tight Speedos. I became so excited about going there that I almost booked it straight away. “We need to wait until we have saved up enough money first.” My husband warned me. He’s like the guy in Mr Benn, who comes in and makes Mr Benn leave, spoiling his fun at the most crucial moment. “I bet you won’t be able to wait. You’ll book it in no time.” So, I agreed to wait and bet him a hundred pounds that I won’t book anything until June. I might be impulsive and single-minded but I’m also quite competitive with my husband and a bet’s a bet.
Therefore, as we are going to be visiting France, I have decided that I need to brush up my spoken French somewhat. I’ve already made sure that I have learnt the latest words for a fan and air-conditioning, as being permanently boiling and menopausal these two items will be a necessity in any hotel room we stay in. Languages have come a long way since I first started studying French the audio-visual way in 1980. There are so many different kinds of language learning videos on YouTube. I used to enjoy watching British YouTubers, but they are starting to become a bit too predictable these days with their multitude of Poundland hauls and ASOS try-ons.
Fortunately the French always do things differently, and I have found one YouTuber called, ‘Solonge Te Parle’ who rather than do shopping hauls, makes videos on what it’s like to use an escort and what it’s like to be agoraphobic and terrified of social interaction. I love the way she over-analyses everything – just like me – and her unique take on life. I have been watching her for a few days and I already feel that my confidence is returning. I also enjoy watching the videos from bi-lingual speakers who explain the latest slang and the latest words for technology. You can also watch your favourite game-shows in French – always a great way to pick up language.
It’s been a while since I last went to France. I think the last time was when I was pregnant with Sofia in 2006. It will be wonderful to share my enjoyment of the place with my children now that they are older. Although they may prefer to walk a comfortable distance behind me, so as not to be embarrassed by their Mother, desperately practising her French at every opportunity. Let the countdown begin!
I hope you are having an enjoyable Festive Season.