On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... three French Hens.
I haven't known many hens (I am not much of a bird person!). My cousins' grandparents kept a farm and they may have had hens (although to be honest, it is more the goats and the goat milk I remember). We also had a few holidays on farms when I was a child... but again it is either the dog or the lambs or the bull in the field that I remember.
So let's move onto the French bit! My mother has a great affinity for the French language. She studied to A-level at school and (to this day) speaks it well. She wanted me to learn to speak French so when I was around 4 or 5 I started going to classes. I don't remember much (although I must have learned to count as I showed of horribly counting to 10 in French at some child assessment thing, so the story goes); I also remember a sad story about an owl (I think) who needed some water so he made himself cry by thinking about sad things... one of which was teaspoons that had fallen down the back of kitchen units.
This early start to French served me well. My third primary school had French classes, and I was already well up with the basic requirements and found it easy to learn more. This put me in good stead for Secondary School where I started learning French for the third time. When we were put into 'sets' for GCSE I ended up a long way down as I had grown bored with learning the same things over and over again.
I studied French until A-level. The requirement not only being continued study of grammar and language but also the addition of literature. We studied two books and two plays... of varying popularity.
Albert Camus: La Peste (The Plague) - a dreary story set, from memory, somewhere in North Africa, about a Plague ridden town (in fairly modern times). It was detested by all , without exception.
François Mauriac: Thérèse Desqueyroux - I found this one quite a page turner, I remember reading it on car journey's whilst on holiday in France. I can't remember much of the plot, people killed people.
Molière: Le Misanthrope. A bit more like hard work as we're now dealing with 17th Century French. A pretty good play though (from what I remember).
Jean Anouilh: Becket ou l'honneur de Dieu (Becket or the Honour of God). A play about the relationship between Henry II and Thomas Becket. Although we were reading in French we were lucky enough that the Theatre Royal Haymarket had a production at just the right time starring Robert Lindsay and Derek Jacobi. You can watch a (not so faithful) movie version starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. I loved the play so much I still own a copy (somewhere).
I tried to keep up my French. I can still read it, and after some acclimatisation understand it spoken, but writing or speaking it... well I'm too out of practice.
We spent several childhood holidays in France (Normandy and Brittany) and I went on a French Exchange to Lille and visited Dunkirk. I've been a handful of other places; but my favourite will always be Paris; I haven't finished there and I've visited three times!
Uploaded by nat_mach on September 13, 2011
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