Learning ballet expanded my French vocabulary, with words such as developpe, jete, petit jete, ports de bra and more responded to in ballet classes for many years. Sadly (as it turned out), French was not on the curriculum 'menu' of Malvern Girls Secondary School in the early 1960's.
'I only I'd .... studied French at school" I exclaimed when not having a language precluded an Arts degree when choosing to go to University in 1966.
'If only I'd ... studied French at school' I exclaimed a decade later when trying to learn Spanish while teaching English in Spain. A romance language with similar conjugation of verbs, understanding French would have made learning Spanish so much easier. .
‘If only I’d ….studied French at school’ .. also brings back memories of an incident in Paris.
While living in London before teaching in Spain later that year, I shared a house in Wandsworth with a group of young Londoners, teachers and lawyers. We decided over dinner one evening that we’d all take time out to go to Paris for a week or so. A roommate had been offered the use of a French apartment which wasn’t being used by one of her friends. We crossed the channel to France and spent days walking the streets of Paris, visiting galleries and other sites, our lunch usually a picnic of French baguettes, pates and cheeses.
I’d become accustomed to not eating much meat since leaving Australia, it was so expensive in London. Our household was adept at making all sorts of meals out of mince – shepherd’s pie, moussaka, lasagne and many variations of pasta were invariably on the menu.
However, I was quietly pining away for a piece of steak! I kept my secret longing to myself as I knew the household kitty would not extend to steak. When we decided that we would go our separate ways for a day in Paris, all I could think of was finding a French restaurant at lunch time and ordering a steak, whatever the cost!
I chose a restaurant a little off the beaten tourist track, discovering after sitting down that the menu was only written in French, The waiter (and as I found later the chef) didn’t speak any English at all.
"If only I’d ... studied French at school!" ... I couldn’t make sense of the menu, the only thing that sounded likely to be something I might like was ‘Steak Tartare’. I ordered, waiting expectantly.
A little later the waiter appeared with a plate replete with diced fillet steak – raw –with an uncooked egg yolk in the middle, small side dishes of chopped capers, chopped onion and gherkins, and a side dish of salad.
I looked at it–quite bewildered—for some minutes, before beckoning the waiter. Not understanding me, he proceeded to mix the egg into the meat, stir in the capers, and reshape it, smiling at me as he suggested in French, that I try it. He’d been so helpful, I thought I should at least try to eat it. I managed to eat a little before I decided I just couldn’t …‘stomach it’.
Noticing I’d barely eaten anything, the waiter brought the chef out. I tried to suggest, using sign language, that perhaps they could cook it a little, but they didn’t understand me, and I didn’t understand them! (I suspect now it would have been sacrilegious for them to cook it.)
Exasperated, but still polite, I pushed the plate away, chose something from the dessert menu, which proved to be delicious, ordered a coffee. I left the restaurant…sorely disappointed, still longing for a piece of steak, medium rare, perhaps with a mustard sauce.
It was to be quite a long time before I would have a steak, 'medium rare', again....
If only I'd ...studied French at school!