When I was a kid at school, for some unearthly reason, I signed up to study French for four years.
For Australian school boys with strong Ocker accents in the 70's, studying French was an 'interesting' experience - to say the least.
Without French movies available on television, and having no 'real' French people to emulate, none of us had any idea what a French person was supposed to sound like - and so, instead of practicing rolling our 'r's we spent most of our French class time drawing surfboards - de planches de surf.
Consequently, at the end of four years study, we weren't exactly fluent. I guess the best way to sum up our 'intimidating' grasp of French is to describe our French teacher's face as he listened to our final Oral exams.
Our French teacher's name was Mr Pierre d'Gorgonzola. He was a Francophile genetically and emotionally. He believed in whistling La Marseillaise while walking both up an down the school corriodors, while doing playground duties and, I have heard from a good source, while visting the rest room with a certain Miss Gerdenhymen.
Apart from his musical tastes and a box shaped head of Asterxyian red hair, Mr d'Gorgonzola possessed a robust French nose.
And what a nose! Even to an Anglophile like myself, it was a magnificent nose (un nez magnifique!). It was a nose that had all the jutting pride of the Eiffel Tower, the phallic elegance of the Concorde jet, and the curves of a Renoir nude - curved as it was in the exact contour of the interior of a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Shat-toe-newf-de pahp - go on, say it.)
Even with that Nez Magnifique decorating his la tête en forme de boîte, to recall his facial expressions as he listened to our final examinations, causes me shame even now.
The day of our oral French exams was a lovely spring day. They were held at exactly two in the afternoon; the wind was blowing westerly giving us a clear blue sky. The soft sunlight came through the big bank of windows on the Eastern wall of the classroom and lit up fairy rings of chalk dust that climbed the light shafts.
There were 36 boys in my class.
In alphabetical order, starting with Alan Appleby, (who had a small tic in his right eye when he was nervous) we each stood and read our chosen passage en français..
Even with his tic, Appelby wasn't too bad. But Appleby's accent wasn't quite right, and as he listened, d'Gorgonzola stuck his chin firmly against his bright pink Paisley tie - as if he were trying not to burst out laughing. When Appelby was finished d'Gorgonzola blew a raspberry of relief through his rubbery lips and said:
'Pas mal. Qui est le prochain? Faites vite!"
The next boy was Brian Atticuscolarus - a fat Greek kid with a lisp. We called Brian, 'Brain' - because he wasn't. 'Brain', as expected, waded through his French passage with all the grace of a deaf, one legged man with Parkinson's disease doing a three quarter waltz.
I think with 'Brain', Mr d'Gorgonzola, began to show the first signs of strain.
To give him credit, d'Gorgonzola twisted his chin toward his shoulder, and attempted to leave it there. But was ultimately unsuccesful, and a small giggle escaped his lips, and he had to cover his mouth with his hand.
With each boy, the readings grew worse, and d'Gorgonzola lost his giggle and started to gnaw on the end of his Bic biro (le Bic). With some readings a few students laughed aloud.
Thankfully d'Gorgonzola had his eyes squeezed shut when we got to the 'F's. So when it came to my turn I didn't get to see his look of disbelief.
Now let me say, as an aside, that most of the boys in my class were, err..... slightly 'abnormal'. Looking back on my school days I think I can sat that with all honesty.
Abnormal, that is, apart from myself of course.
Où sont les livres de l'enfant?
Where are the books of the boy?
Oh, about the images?
Ahh you see, once upon a time there were three adventurers - all childhood freinds. The names of the adventurers were Hansel and Gretel and Brian.
One day they came to a huge old gate, with fancy gold lettering on the gate posts that said "Enter at Your Own Risk."
Brian, being brave, yet stupid, didn't take any notice of the signs.
When Hansel and Gretel had caught up (they had had a restroom stop) it was too late. For poor Brian had opened the gate and been immediately turned into a pig.
He is a pig, even to this day. He is very popular for doing talking pig commercials on daytime television.
I guess there is a lesson there.
Thank you for looking. The French is courtesy of google gahgah. So don't blame me if you go to France and ask for a bathroom with three Presidents in it and they give you a bathroom with only one. :)