Friday, 24 January 2014

Making Progress

This week I had one of those moments where I suddenly felt all those weeks of French lessons, all the headaches, all the hours spent feeling like my head was going to explode, are beginning to pay off. The occasion was a meal at the home of some French friends. They are a lovely  couple, who are interesting and interested in the world around them. Now retired, they were teachers and have travelled extensively. They also speak very good, clear French and are prepared to be patient with people who are making an effort to communicate.

When we go out with English friends Ian is normally the quieter of the two of us, preferring to limit his discussions to technical bits and pieces. I have always enjoyed a more in depth debate about things and the ability to be able to do more than just talk, but to express my ideas, ask questions and discuss current issues, is really important to me. My aim for my French was to be able to speak it well enough that I was able also to express a little of my personality and humour. Up until now, although I have been able to get by in most everyday situations this aspect has alluded me and when we are out with French people Ian has taken the lead in conversation, with me chipping in, if and when I was able to follow what was being said.

My French had sort of reached a plateau over the past year or so and I hadn't felt I had made much improvement. Fortunately I found a new more advanced class and got back into the studying in September. I hadn't really noticed much progress for a while but last week I spent three days in Bordeaux and suddenly found that I didn't have to think all the time to communicate and that I could make jokes with the students in French that made them laugh (and not just because of my accent!) The meal last week marked a turning point as for the first time Ian was silenced and I was able to talk!

For anyone who thinks that you can come to France and 'be fluent in two years'.. it's taken me 6 years of lessons to get this far!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Sepia Saturday: Tom's war

 So, it's 100 years since the outbreak of the first world war. This is a picture of my grandfather Tom. I would guess from this he was around 13 years old. He was born in 1899, so this would perhaps have been taken in 1912 or 1913, just before the outbreak of the war.

Fortunately for us he would have been too young to be conscripted in the first or second wave but  he was not immune to the wave of jingoistic patriotism that made young boys feel they were cowardly if they did not do their bit. From what I remember of the story he was keen to join up as soon as he could but somehow chose or was guided in the direction of the Navy rather than the Army.. another stroke of good fortune as it turned out. Like a lot of young boys he lied on his application and at the age of 15 or 16 spent two years on board ship as a communications officer. I like to think that somehow it was realised that he was just a child dressed up in uniform and someone tried to make sure that he was assigned  to roles where he was less likely to get killed. That's what I would have done if I had been there.
I don't really know how much this experience affected him except that he always loved the sea and  eventually retired to live near Portsmouth. He came back from sea after the war, and although he had known my grandmother as a childhood friend they didn't marry for another 8 years.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

New Year

I won't bore you with a list of reasons as to why I have not written anything since September as none of them are very interesting and it would just read like a list of excuses! The only comment I will make is that I am well, all is well and life continues. Progress has occurred on the house in that one room has been finished, but there is still much more to do.. the dog continues to be a work in progress, the cat is still alive and we are still enjoying things and so far have not regretted our decision.

We managed a week away in the Alps over the New Year but how times change, as we decided that we were not fit enough to ski and such a decision would invariably lead to injury and thus even more delay with the house. Instead, we went walking with the dog and had a go at snow shoeing, or raquettes as it is called here. That was all going well except for the fact that the very day we needed the snow shoes we didn't have them, and ended up trying to walk thorough snow thigh deep in places. One kilometre has never seemed so long as it did on that day!

I do love the mountains even though I find the air a bit 'brutal'. At the end of the 5 days we were just ready for another week to really enjoy our improved fitness.. except it was time to go home! Here are some pictures taken from the balcony of my brother's chalet.

watching the skiers come home

morning on the mountain

After the snow (for sepia friends)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Service will resume as soon as possible

I realise I have been very poor with my blog this year but I really want to do better in 2014. Here's hoping!