Sunday, 14 October 2007

Colle pour Carrelage, s'il vous plaît

Written to friends in August
Language and the distances we need to travel for help are where we struggle the most. Tod is taking the brunt. For example I lost my car keys, so almost immediately we arrive, while I’m unpacking boxes, Tod is having to drive a 60 kilometre round-trip to deal with paperwork and the practicalities of getting new keys sent from Germany. Face to face is easier than telephone, so each subsequent conversation means another journey and we don’t yet have the keys.

We are also having to be pragmatic about what can be achieved in one day when 2 hours is taken for lunch. Virtually everything shuts and while we are in the middle of deciding what we want, we are politely ushered out of supermarkets, DIY stores, offices and banks as the shutters close behind us.

It’s the crises that show us how weak our French is and then how kind and helpful people can be. Tod had ear trouble. Friends suggested we tried their doctor who is Spanish. We drove to the surgery to make an appointment (easier to speak face to face) and he saw Tod there and then, while others who had appointments smiled and waited. The conversation was a mixture of French, Spanish and English, with some of my Portuguese thrown in for good measure!

We are getting a new bathroom installed and we bought the wrong shower door – a dash to get another one at a DIY store and we start explaining in broken French. The assistant in the store replies in perfect English. Buying tiles, we spend a lot of time drawing pictures, pointing and grabbing words from the building terms dictionary Tod has bought, while the assistants go back and forwards with possible solutions. We may not be able to speak everyday French, but we do now know the words for tile adhesive and grouting!

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