Yesterday we had a picnic at our almond grove. That makes it sound very grand, which it’s not. We have around sixty almond trees and a little hut, known as a mazet. There is about an acre of land with a river at the bottom of it and a vineyard lining one side. We can just see our house from it, up on the hill in the distance.
We invited about twenty friends, everyone brought something, mainly children. They had a great time, building houses out of sticks, wading in the river, cycling up and down the small road, playing with the dogs. As Tom, one friend observed; “Children always seem to move at high speed, imagine if we did the same as adults.” The only high speed thing about the adults was their drinking.
To eat we had oysters, salads, quiches, grilled meats, olives, cheeses, divine chocolate chip cookies and apple tarts; everyone came laden with food, almost all of it home-made and delicious. As a way to have a Sunday lunch-party it beats the hell out of standing over a hot oven praying your roast potatoes will look like they were cooked by Nigella and not Mr Bean.
There was a mixture of French, English, Irish and Australians. A good mix of nationalities. But the one thing all their children will have in common will be that they will, in all probability, speak French for life. Which of course is reason enough in itself to move here. French is possibly the most impossible language to get a grip on (outside the really tricky ones like Chinese and Russian). Practically every time I speak I worry I have got something wrong. The poems my children have to learn off by heart at school seem to get increasingly incomprehensible.
It’s a funny thing. Some days my French seems to work and on others it just stalls, like an old car that hasn’t been started for a few years. Even the children are beginning to notice. When I told Olivia recently I had to watch the French news for work and so we couldn’t watch cartoons she looked at me with pity: “But mummy,” she said. “You don’t understand it anyway.”
Is that why France seems like such a nice place to live?
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007