Short Changed

  Readers in bygone days might have described me as a cad and a bounder. My misdemeanour - having fallen out of love, I have decided to reveal all. My infatuation was not with a person but with what I saw as an altruistic ideal. Discovering otherwise came as a horrible surprise and while we…

In search of humble pie

In general, my French lessons follow a fairly standard format. After a session in which we catch up on the French news and on any important student news, our teacher goes round the table asking each of us in turn if we have a presentation to offer. Most of us will have prepared something and,…

Come all ye faithful

Remembering our histories is part of the human condition. In a week or so, on 5th of November to be precise, people all over Britain will light bonfires, let off fireworks and burn effigies. As a nation we will once again commemorate the night in 1605 when the attempt by Guy Fawkes to burn down…

Tongue untied

It is said that the language we use influences the way we think and feel, and possibly even how our minds develop and decline. For those who are bilingual or more, it introduces all sorts of interesting dimensions. So when conversing, for example, there are choices to be made consciously or otherwise as to the language…

Vive la difference

Travelling in the rush hour is rarely pleasant. Standing, tightly packed, in an underground train is bad enough, but add to that the unique landscape and it all gets much worse. I am talking about close up views of ears, nostrils, pimples, pates and partings, plus the accompanying wafts of halitosis and last night's alcohol.…

In a manner of speaking

The minute I hear a voice on the phone I try to guess who is speaking. For close friends, just the briefest of sounds will be enough - so just the 'hell' of 'hello' - and getting it right gives me a real buzz. It is an odd pastime but in my case one born…

French without tears

It took some time to realise what was happening and it was wonderful. On the Wednesday of my week in Paris I had been to a film and had understood most of what was said. By the Friday, understanding spoken French was almost second nature. After six years, something had clicked. In aeroplane terms, I…

Man in a hurry

I am now three years into my retirement and last month things changed. Suddenly I was a man in a hurry. At a dinner with six others, average age over seventy, it was clear that the each of us had decided how we would live out our lives in terms of what we should do…

On being older

I am now 67 and am having the time of my life. Inevitably, the way I am feeling and acting now is the product of both my age and my recent retirement, and the exact contribution of the two components is difficult to disentangle. I actually retired from being an academic with an active role in…

French as she (or he) is spoke

By my early sixties the limitations of my 1958 ‘O’ Level French were being cruelly exposed when attempting to converse with my neighbours in France and for the last four years or so I have been learning French. I have done the majority of my studying at the Institut Francais in London, and this has…