Thursday, 6 November 2014

Story Time - French Souvenirs

Souvenirs... When I was a kid I used to go places, I can't afford to go places any more, but when I was a kid I went to places... And everywhere I went I bought the family little gifts back, to remind them how much they like me, kind of like emotional bribes, so I could gauge how much they did or didn't miss me and suck up to them and retake my place in the pecking order of bullshit... No, no in reality it was just something we did... we got little gifts, little souvenirs.

Now, I understand you buy yourself a little souvenir, so you remember your trip... like from Egypt I have really nice bed covers, and they're over 14 years old now and I still remember being asleep in Egypt everytime I go to sleep in England...

But when I was a kid I brought gifts back to others... France, Twycross Zoo, the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, Wollaton Hall Nottingham... Nottingham Castle!... All these little places made a little bit of cash off of me and I remember to this day that no-one really kept these little things.

Except one person, my Nan... She still has a painted rock I bought her from France, it was just a washed rock from the beach, someone had painted a scene of a harbour on it... Only now odes it strike me as strange, because we neither visited, nor saw, a harbour.  The shop I got it from was around the corner from the hotel we stayed in, and the hotel was just on a road in the middle of a Pas-De-Calais town, very dusty, a little smelly and I remember getting told off for throwing Marmite sandwiches from a window... when a) I didn't have any Marmite sandwiches and b) don't like Marmite!

The Hotel had dubious plumbing, the escape ladders were made of copper pipes and looked so unsafe as to make you wish you could just throw yourself out the window.  One of the toilets would not flush.  And the food was so bad that I think of the whole 5 days of meals they served we only ate one and that was the one with chips (fries)... They served raw fish, horrid paté and just guck.

When we ran into a local we either made friends or hated them, very much like the aforementioned Marmite in that respect.

But this was the 1990's, still before everyone spoke English, so it was a struggle to actually communicate, not least because most of us were pre GCSE, we were year 3 as was, not year 4/5 and only got on the trip to make up numbers.

However, I do remember my first application of French, we were dumped on the outside of a town by the bus.  Totally alone... this would never happen today, and I think only happened because the three French teachers wanted to go to a bar and get more drunk, however, dumped on the outskirts of this town we were told in the middle was a market and we had to make our way there and ask at least three people directions....

This turned into me walking a head of a group of kids my age, because I was confident - with a then brown belt in Karate I was pretty happy I could fight off an attacker, be they French or otherwise.  So we marched through this town like the Germans in 1940 had.

Two French kids kept staring and shouting something at us, so I gave them a Nazi salute... Literally the finger under the nose and arm out... they ran off in shock... Only later did I find out this was illegal...

We turned this corner and were basically in a dusty looking, very hot summers day, street lost... There was a man in his garden so I went to him...

"Excusey moi missuurrrr"  I still speak French like this, so must sound like a retard to them, but that's a whole other story...

"oooooo eweeeeey lay marrrrrr-shhheyyy ssssiiiii vvvvooooo play"

Meaning, I thought "Excuse me sir, where is the market please?"... He looked at me, and snored, turned his back and went into his house... I fucking tried al-right France, I tried, and you were so rude to me... If you come here and falteringly ask in English "Where's the market please", I'll tell you, and even help you along so I understand you... I won't just snort and walk inside my house.

I dunno, all these years later I remember him doing that, maybe I turned him on, maybe he went straight in and started furiously masturbating.  Whatever he actually did all I remember is "he's a French wanker"... So, well done him for casting all the stereo types about French people listening to others attempt to speak French.

Around the next corner however our saviour appeared, a man in the street, walking a long, he was smoking, wearing a leather jacket and a black polo neck - on this hot day - he looked the typical French guy... I hit him with my now famous line... and he looked at me puzzled, then in a broad Leeds accent said... "Just round that corner mate".

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