My daughter is preparing her ‘brevet blanc’ (mock GCSEs the French take at 15). With just two days to go, we desperately try to ‘déchiffrer’ (decipher) the ‘Théorème de Thalès’, the ‘passé simple’ (past historic) and the finer points of ‘la citoyenneté française’ (French citizenship) with the frenzy of WWII ‘décodeurs de code’ (code breakers). The impending exam has prompted yet another ‘frénésie d’achats de fournitures‘ (frenzied stationery spree) and I can’t believe we’re on our third ‘compas’ (compass) of the year. I dread to think where – and how – we will find the others!
‘J’ai un choix à faire’. (I have a choice to make). I can ‘rester chez moi au chaud’ (stay at home in the warm), or go to Paris for a free ‘conférence’. ‘J’hésite’ (hesitate), but finally I jump on the bus to the nearest RER station. The bus ‘conducteur’ (driver) kindly tells me that there are no trains today. A member of staff on the RER A, ‘la plus fréquentée d’Europe’ (the busiest in Europe), ‘s’est fait agresser’ (has been attacked) and his colleagues ‘se sont spontanément mis en grève’ (have spontaneously decided to go on strike). I consider ‘descendre au prochain arrêt’ (getting off at the next stop), but ‘une fois que je me suis décidée à faire quelque chose’ (once my mind’s made up’) I can be stupidly ‘têtue’ (stubborn). Two trains, a métro, an RER and two hours later I arrive at the Cité Universitaire.
‘Il y a 23 ans’ (23 years ago), I lived here, in the Maison Franco-Britannique for my exchange year. ‘Des souvenirs floux’ (hazy memories) of climbing ‘par la fenêtre’ (through the window) on to the balcony ‘pour fumer en cachette’ (for a sneaky smoke), of ‘cafards’ (cockroaches) in the kitchen and the frustration of phoning England from ‘une cabine a pièces’ (pay-phone) in the corridor opposite the concierge. I enjoy the ‘ateliers’ (workshops) and pick up some ‘astuces’ (tricks) for my lessons. During the lunch hour ‘je file à l’anglaise’ ( I sneak out furtively) to the Parc Montsouris opposite. My feet carry me along familiar ‘sentiers’ (paths) through the rain to ‘mon coin préféré’ (my favourite spot). ‘Des gouttes de pluie’ (raindrops) drip through the ferns and trouble the water at the bottom of the little ‘cascade’ (waterfall) and a carp swims in endless gentle circles. Je suis imprégnée d’une étrange tristesse (I am filled with a strange sadness) for the beauty of this moment ‘qui ne peut durer’ (that cannot last) and so I film it on my mobile and put it in ‘ma poche’ (my pocket) for later.
Click on the link below ‘parc montsouris’ to see ‘mon coin préféré’ (my favourite spot)!