Friday, November 20, 2015

Une connexion de toute la vie

If I started this post by writing 'This time five months ago...' you would have no idea how that sentence would conclude; but if instead I wrote 'This time last week...' you would instantly think "Paris".

That is the right answer to both, in fact. Just five months ago I was cycling on a public bike along the Promenade Plantée; taking a long walk around the 13th arrondissement with Quân; standing in the dark with the crowds at the top of the steps at the Trocadero, watching the lights twinkle on the Eiffel Tower; gliding beneath its bridges on the Tapestry II, on my way to Normandy. The weather was warm and sunny, people were starting to relax into the summer, and it was a glorious place to be.

Now? Not so much, superficially. The hideousness of last week's attacks have cast a blight over the city and the unspeakable scum - Daesh - will be celebrating. But not for long. Paris will return to normal. Better than normal, because the French now know that the rest of the world stands with them. Especially those of us who have studied French.
Learning a language, and the culture and customs that go with it, forges a bond that never breaks. However long ago it was, if you've ever sat in a classroom practising irregular verbs, sweated over proses for homework, learned by using a graph how to draw a map of the country freehand, then you've made a connection that's not going to be broken for the rest of your life. 

Everyone in the free world is feeling for France right now - but because I've done my time with Tasman verbs and inexplicable genders, with y and en, with hyphens, circumflexes and cedillas - because of all that, French and France are a part of me, and I'm taking the attacks personally. (Even if turning up a stray and ancient school exercise book has proved that learning French was much more of a struggle than I remembered.)
I do hope you're still there, my Parisian reader?

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