Nécessité fait loi. Necessity calls the shots.
It’s now ten years since we left Ireland to come to France. We’ve come a long way – not just physically, but culturally too. We no longer froth at the mouth over lunchtime closing. We happily shake hands and kiss cheeks with anyone. We manage just fine without digestive biscuits and custard powder. Our three children are completely Frenchified. They’re at the stage now where they’re forgetting English words and prefer reading French books to English ones. Chris and I will never get to that point, but that’s OK. However, I am in training to become a French citizen. My Gallic shrug is right up there with the best of them, and I look hot in a beret. I even know some of the words to the Marseillaise, without doubt the goriest national anthem out there. These days I’m a lake manager, gîte owner and llama farmer. I throw sweetcorn into the lakes through holes in the ice during winter, scrub floors and toilets in summer and shovel llama poo all year round. But I’m also an English graduate, an editor and a writer. I’m articulate, literate, coherent, circumlocutory – OK, verbose. I love being witty and playing with words. I have a vast vocabulary. In English, anyway. The hardest thing about being an ex-pat has been getting used to being a bumbling moron in the foreign tongue. You’re reduced to the language ability of a small child. There are loads of words you don’t know. So instead of saying, for example, at the garage: “My electronic dashboard has stopped working,” you have to go with: “It does not work, the big electric thing at the front of the car that tells you your speed and how much petrol you have and what time it is”. And if you could say simply “I need an application form for a student bus pass please” instead of “Please may I have the particular piece of paper on which I need to write lots of information so that my son who will be starting at lycée in September can have the special ticket that means he can travel cheaply on the weekly bus to Gueret,” well, life would be a doddle.