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March 18, 2009


Yesterday, a neighbor stopped me saying, 
"You speak French don't you?"
Have NO inkling what gave her THAT idea. 

She needed something pronounced correctly. 
Yikes!! I can make true French speakers cry 
with my attempts.

Only on rare extreme emergency occasions
have I jumped a language barrier, tossed 
syntax, case, tense and shame to the wind. 

Like that day tour to Oxfordshire and Blenheim 
Palace from London some years ago. 

A French family, une grandmere, grandpere, 
petit-fils et une tante were on the bus
and clearly didn't understand an English word 
our guide spoke.

At first, I kept silent, only wanting to enjoy 
the trip. But the guide was brusque and 
increasingly agitated at French family 
members quietly chatting while she held 
forth about the sights.

When we alit just below Bladon Church, 
where Winston Churchill is buried.
The French folks were clueless. 
No idea where we were or why. 
Sidling up to the Aunt, as we walked up 
the hill, I tossed caution and pride to the wind.
"Excusez moi, Madame" I said. "Winston 
Churchill est mort dans cette eglise"
("Winston Churchill is dead in this church.")
OK, I just couldn't remember the French for 
cemetery -cimetiere - on such short notice. 

La Tante immediately spread the news and 
much to the disgust of our British guide, 
I became the French family's new 
best friend.

At Blenheim Palace I related how "La Reine 
Anne d'Angleterre a donne cet chateaux aux 
John Churchill, le premier Duc de Marlborough 
pour (hmm, how do I say "defeating"?) drawing my 
finger across my throat - les soldats de Louis XIV!!" 

My reward for courage and nerve was 
an ice cream cone avec mes nouveaux amis
and un grande "MERCI !" as I left the bus 
at Marble Arch back in London.

Who knew 2 years of barely passed high school French
would come in handy one day.

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