Twaaa, Catt, Sank...Did I mention I speak not a lick of French?
While not an entirely accurate statement (I would number my French vocabulary at approximately 25 words...a dozen of which are the numbers one to twelve), it is nevertheless one which accurately summarises the pitiful lingual baggage I will be clutching on arrival. I am, 'ow you sayyyy: buggered. How much French can a girl learn in eight weeks?
Luckily, I have a disgustingly gifted friend who not only speaks fluent Spanish, writes his own plays, acts AND works full time, but also spends the duration of his working days on the telephone speaking in French. Some people are just plain useful. On Monday, which I now know to be lundi (hurrah!) I had my very first French lesson.
My dedicated tutor, who we'll Chris becaue that's his name, prefaced the hour's lesson with the words "This is the last thing you're going to hear me say in English" and, following that rather perturbing statement, we vanished down the French Rabbit Hole while La Marseillaise played somewhere in the back of my mind. This was it! Du-dun-du-dun-dun-dun-dun-DUUNNNN-da-dun...my first step on the road to gobsmacking fluency, the beginning of a beautiful inevitability that lead straight to the new Chic Me, du-dun-dun-de-dun-dunnn....rattling out French idioms like a native to the rapt attention of a beautiful dark-haired Marquise. I didn't even stop to address the inkling that 'Marquise' was feminine, I was far too busy anticipating my rapidly approaching bi-lingualism.
Smiling at these sunlit imaginings it took me a moment to realise that Chris' torrent of incomprehensible French was no longer providing a suitable soundtrack. Raised from my reverie I tore my gaze from Chic-Me on a bike in a beret and re-focused my eyes to find him looking at me expectantly while holding a laminated orange card with a large black question mark on it. The reality is, I cannot even be trusted to know when a question has been asked, let alone its sodding meaning. Chic-Me fell off her bike and clattered to the Chic-Pavement.
I played for time. "Oui." Admittedly, this did not delay matters for long. The weapons at my disposal are lamentably few, and it was between that and "c'est la vie" which just would've been plain facetious.
A series of reactions chased each other around Chris' eyes as he processed this (evidently very worrying) response. With an accompanying sensation of gastric-free-fall I was all at once up to my neck in long-forgotten high school recollections of heart-stopping bafflement. I was going to have to concentrate. A lot. And hard. For a long, long, very bloody long time.
Chris, god bless him, started at the beginning. I caught perhaps every fourteenth word (via huge leaps of desperate intuition) and hung on to the thinnest threads of comprehension - however tenuous, fleeting or downright incorrect. We muddled through. Numbers (with a slight pause to accommodate my bewilderment at the nineties), days of the week, months of the year and finally, 'telling the time', which in retrospect causes me no small amount of nervousness, essentially suggesting I neither understood nor recall the essentials of the subject.
But learning again is a surprising joy. I have homework. I'm being taught something totally new and scarily difficult. I'm concentrating again; brain-muscles are yawning and stretching and coming back to life. I have begun to learn French. Mon dieu.