Mind your language

So it’s about that time of year again where I update you on how pathetic my French is, like you really care and need to know how I’m getting on with that. Let’s just say it has improved, but not a great deal. My comprehension is a little better, partly because my prof is bavard – which is French for talkative, or if you prefer, gobshite. Listening is something I needed to get better at for sure – and there is plenty of room for improvement still, you can trust me on that one. And now my spoken French is suffering because my prof never shuts his mouth and I don’t get to talk French out loud except for in the usual places such as the boulangerie. For those who’ve been reading this blog for a while, the staff at the Arsey Boulanger are no longer quite so arsey. They’ve accepted we’re not going home any time soon and are now worryingly friendly, which means they’re a lot more bavard than they used to be. This can be awkward as I just want to get my bread and coffee and fuck off out of there.

So my comprehension is certainly improving but it’s still a long way off. I reckon I can pick out about 40-50% of the words generally, but stringing them together and guessing the correct meaning someone is trying to convey is more problematic, especially as I try to bluff it out and pretend I know what they’re going on about. Earlier in the pharmacy the girl behind the counter tried to make a joke as I was leaving about not knocking the display of lozenges over (she must make this joke 50 times a day). I misunderstood and thought she was trying to give me a free pack of lozenges, and it took another customer to mime knocking the display over before I understood. The whole charade became an embarrassing farce, especially when I tried to tell her in French that it was a strange place to put the display. I should have just nodded, shut my mouth and looked for a hole in the ground to swallow me up.

Anyway, something’s changed. I don’t have the same compulsion to maddeningly drop random French words into my prose anymore, which either means I’m getting a grip or I’m losing interest. Or it might just mean I’ve had a word with myself.


Despite what you might read in the press, Paris is still lovely. There seems to be an obsession from what I can gather to portray it as war-torn and divided, which isn’t true in my experience, but then what would I know, I only misunderstand people in the pharmacy. One thing I don’t like though – and it’s something I’ve noticed recently that might have been going on for a while now – is this: brands posting wallpaper on walls that tries to look like graffiti. Netflix took the massive wall on the Canal St Martin recently where street artists normally doodle to their hearts’ content, and thankfully someone saw sense to whiten the whole thing out the next day. I’ve also seen Nike do it. I think it’s fine for these corporate behemoths to find celebrated street artists and commission them to create things for them for fuck tonnes of money, but when they’re trying to muscle in on the streets themselves then they can just jolly well get fucked. As if brands aren’t everywhere else in society as it is!

The Nike ad in particular was the most embarrassing thing I’d seen since some Liberal Democrats tried to chop up a speech by Nick Clegg to resemble Cassetteboy. This pernicious absorption of street culture isn’t anything new of course, but I’m fearful where it might end. I might start a campaign to keep street art pure, though you need to keep a check on yourself if you’re ever using “start a campaign” and “pure” in the same sentence. And anyway, I’m sure some prick has already started a petition on Change.org by now.

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