I first wrote this on my old blog on February 22nd 2016. You’ve probably heard the advice already, but it’s interesting to look back and see where I was pre Brexit and pre move. Even though I knew this was the plan, it still didn’t diminish the shock and concern over how Brexit would impact us.
What where your pre Brexit thoughts? Have they changed any? I’d love to hear from you.
In my last post I put forward ways that I think my folks, currently living in their home in Normandy, could have some rights if a Brexit should occur. However for our move to France, which due to family issues will have to happen after the referendum, would not only be in jeapordy due to these changes, but our right to go would be in question.
Would we have to go through a visa system?
Ireland And The EU
My research last year threw up a possibility which might ensure that, irrelevant of the outcome of the referendum, my parents and myself can continue to enjoy the rights of European citizens.
Every Irish citizen is also a citizen of the European Union and an Irish passport allows for free rights of movement and residence in any of the states of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland. It had occurred to me that this was a possibility because I knew my aunt had a passport for both nations – Irish and British. However my mother didn’t.
The reason for this difference was that my mother had been born in the north of Ireland as her parents, originally from the south, had travelled there to join the war effort. By contrast my aunt had been born in the south, so she was automatically an Irish citizen.
However, since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement anyone born in the island of Ireland is entitled to Irish citizenship dependent on their parents nationality. Her entitlement could affect me, my siblings and our children (my mother’s grandchildren). So I decided to look into it.
Are We Entitled To Irish Citizenship?
If you where born on the island of Ireland before January 1 2005 you are entitled to be an Irish citizen. Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – those born in Northern Ireland have the right to be citizens of both the United Kingdom and Ireland. To have the right to hold the citizenship of both an individual must – at the time of their birth – have had at least one parent who was Irish, British or who had the right to live permanently in Northern Ireland. So my mother, being born in Northern Ireland to Irish parents, would seemingly be an Irish citizen and as such a member of the EU irrelevant of Brexit.
If someone is born outside of Ireland they may be an Irish citizen by descent if one of their parents was born in Ireland and was an Irish citizen (i.e. not a foreign national who happened to be in Ireland at the time of their birth). My grandfather on my father’s side was from the Republic of Ireland too, so my dad has Irish citizenship too. As my mother is of Irish descent and born in Ireland myself and my siblings would also qualify for Irish citizenship, irrespective of where we are born.
If you were born outside of Ireland to a parent/s who are an Irish citizen/s who were also born outside of Ireland, then you are entitled to become an Irish citizen. For my children and nieces and nephews they could then claim Irish citizenship through me/my siblings. In this case they would need to register in the Foreign Births Register,a link to which is here. Their Irish citizenship is effective from the date of registration – not from the date when They were born.
For a more detailed account that may help with other familial situations, and a chart to clearly explain this, you can go to the website here.
What Does This Mean For An Irish Passport?
Applications for an Irish passport are made using form APS1, for those applying inside of Ireland, or APS2 depending for those outside Ireland at the time of the application and can be obtained from an Irish Embassy or Consulate. The process and requirements are similar to a British passport application and the basic fee for an Irish passport application is €80.
How Would This Affect My Husband And Family?
European free movement law has been made to ensure that the EU citizen has a clear path to realise their freedom of movement rights to another EU country. As restricting the rights of family to accompany the EU citizen will discourage the EU citizen from exercising their free movement right, this would impede their rights. Therefore the non-EU member family have a right to be with their on-the-move EU family members, and have the same rights to work or study or access the resources of the host member state.
Therefore my husband and daughters (although they could claim nationality through me) can;
get a free visa, to be issued “as soon as possible and on the basis of an accelerated process”, as long as they will be travelling with or joining me.
They can enter without a required visa as long as they are travelling with the me and are carrying proof of our relationship.
They are entitled to a Residence Card when the EU citizen is exercising treaty rights of stay.
After a period in another host member state, family members can move back with their EU citizen family member to the EU citizen’s home country.
During their first 3 months family members who are not EU nationals cannot be required to apply for a residence card confirming their right to live there – although in some countries they may have to report their presence upon arrival.
For us this means that we can go to France, safe in the rights we currently maintain as Eu citizens. Again I’m going to state that I’m not an expert in this, don’t gamble your house on it then sue me! But, could this apply to you too?
Another of my post Brexit, pre moving to France posts. I was just trying to make sense of it all and was worry about what impact it would have on the French perception of the English.How man you of these argument ts still hold up today? Take everything a look and let me know what you think. I’d love to here from both sides of the argument.
Also if your living in France, have a holiday home here or are still thinking of coming and have any comments or queries – the comments are welcome!
As it others were I was stunned by the referendum result. My mother, attending church in the cathedral the Sunday afterwards, was met with points and exclamations of English afterward. These, thankfully, weren’t expressions of condemnation (despite France many in France being pro the result – #BonDebarras), but rather of shock. Her response “Oui, Je sais. C’est catastrophique!”
As I’m going to be taking my little one to play groups and other things for extended periods of time, and as an outsider, I’m becoming (perhaps irrationally) concerned with what to say if asked about it – as well as how to say it! So I’ve put together an a-z of Brexit things as well as some French vocabulary. Hope this helps you too!
Is for ashamed (avoir honte). Following the vote (vote) my Facebook timeline was filled with posts from people who were ‘ashamed to be British’. This was, apparently, because of the image of those who had voted for Brexit being what is described below.
Is for bigot (fanatique). As many who voted for Brexit stated immigration (l’immigration) as a major concern they have been termed as ‘Little Englanders’ (lespetitsanglaise) because of their suspected wish of wanting the UK (le Royaume-Uni) to be ‘for the British’.
Is for control (être maître) ; as in control of borders (la frontière), of the ability to make laws (les lois), and those responsible for the governing of the people to be accountable to the people. A phrase frequently repeated by those campaigning for Brexit, and best highlighted by Tony Benn’s quote;
“When I saw how the European Union was developing, it was very obvious what they had in mind was not democratic (democratique) In Britain, you vote for a government (le gouvernement) so the government has to listen to you, and if you don’t like it you can change it.”
C is also for contagion (la contagion). The fear that post Brexit other countries unhappy with how the EU is being run may themselves put a referendum to their people.
Is for degree (avoir une diplôme universitaire). The often stated difference between those voting to Bremain with those voting for Brexit was that the former had them and the latter didn’t. The inference being, of course, that Brexiters didn’t have the capacity (la capacité) to make such a monumental decision as they weren’t as intelligent (intelligent/e), or even stupid (stupide). See L.
Is also for diverse (divers/e). London, the most diverse in the number of cities which voted to remain, was contrasted to the areas voting for Brexit. The argument that those who had voted for Brexit didn’t live in such areas was evidence that, as they hadn’t experienced diversity, therefore were more susceptible to the lies of the Brexit campaign (presumably because of their lack of intelligence).
Is for the elite (l’élite). The referendum has been seen by many as a way to lash out at ‘the elite’ who are not touched by the impact mass immigration has had on others. In response to the point above it is argued that the elites – whilst enjoying cheap labour, a wide variety of cuisine and restaurants etc – don’t have to compete for resources as others do and actually live in leafy, wealthy areas. This was epitomised by the behaviour of Bob Geldof directed towards Nigel Farage. Hits focus on Farage, I would suggest, meant that he wasn’t sufficiently conscious the impact it was having on the fishermen (pêcheurs) with him campaigning (faisant campagne) against the EU.
Is for fear (peur) as in project. Prior to the referendum many business leaders and financiers (including the head of the Bank of England) stated that following an ‘out’ vote there would be a financial crises (crises financières). World leaders such as Obama, Hollande and experts like the IMFs Christine Lagarde all reported financial devastation, lack of trade deals and the moving of border checks to this side of the channel.
As in mind the gap (un créneau). In this depressingly sad piece in The Guardian this writer eloquently describes it. His realisation as to the possible reason for the sudden growth in the hand washed car business (why invest in expensive machinery, when labour itself is so cheap) made me ashamed. Ashamed that the gap between the rich and the poor in my country had grown so much with us only paying passing attention to it. A commentor below the line in this piece, despairing of the affect Brexit would have on her children, was angry and bewildered. She’d voted all her life to pay higher taxes, she said, to help such people. Yet she was still angry at them for voting out.
I was struck by how our sudden unease and fear that Brexit had unleashed was nothing in comparison to generations of people let down by successive Labour and Conservative governments. This feeling has probably been their predominant feeling throughout life.
Is for Home Secretary, or Theresa May, reportedly a shoe in for the Conservative leadership and therefore Prime minister. May, who has overseen immigration ironically, has expressed euro sceptic sentiments previously. Nevertheless she, grudgingly, backed Bremain. She has committed to invoking article 50 (l’article50) and has caused doubt as to whether foreign nationals would be repatriated following the Article 50s completion and British exit from the EU (lerapatriement). This is despite repeated statements by Brexit campaigners that no such thing would happen following the referendum. Whether she is doing so to look tough, to appeal to those she sees as xenophobic rather than just doubtful about mass migration or as a bargaining chip in the negotiations remains to be seen. What is certain is that such statements causes anxiety not only for those foreign nationals (les ressortissant étranger) living in the UK, but UK nationals living in other member states.
Is for integration (l’intégration) too. For some the response of France was seen as an inevitable result of England’s self designated thorn in the side role of the European rose. In England it had always been for some a project economic, not social and our constant ‘No’ to treaties where a roadblock to the desired integration wanted by the other countries.
Is for Johnson, Boris. The blonde haired buffoon or bro, depending on your perspective. Seen at first as the hero of the Brexit campaign (or power thirsty, backstabbing, opportunist) he delivered a Hollywood worthy ‘Independence Day’ speech just before referendum day (le discours). After the shock result he was pictured looking, it can be interpreted, in shock (un choc). It must be said that this opinion can be further substantiated by his sudden disappearance (ladisparition) following what should have been his victorious (victorieux/euse) hour. His subsequent column, apparently edging away from some of the wilder referendum claims, resulted his own ‘et tu Bruté’ moment, when his own back was apparently stabbed by Gove.
Is for the Queen (la reine) who was reported to have made known her dissatisfaction with the EU at a dinner party with Gove and Nick Clegg, but who later challenged the report. However, just prior to the referendum date did not refute the report she was asking at dinner parties for guests to tell her three things we gained from membership of it. Like her subtle statement prior to the Scottish referendum, this was seen as an anti EU statement, as her majesty is known to be more in favour of the Commonwelath which comes second best to the EU. As a closer federalised state, with all members becoming citizens of the EU, would call into question the monarchy’s (la monarchies) standing, this isn’t too much of a stretch.
It can be argued though that it is the capitalist nature of society, unlike the socialist society of the French, that has led to this position. In France there is a protectionist culture (lacultureprotectiotnniste); welcoming newcomers that can support themselves, but willing to pay higher prices and wages to ensure that all have the dignity of work.
Is for terrorism (le terrorisme). A fear of the attacks in Paris as well as other European and Western societies being repeated was present and highlighted by that poster. Angela Merkel’s response to last summers refugee crises and the subsequent terror attacks that could be related back to it was seen as a direct threat to the European nations security due to the schengen zone. Subsequent efforts to stop the movement of people has led to the possible inclusion of Turkey into the zone in the coming years, and certainly giving its citizens access to the schengen zone now. This has further unnerved people. One of the debating points prior to the referendum was whether being a part of Europe increased or negatively affected our security.
Is for unemployment (lechômage), particularly of the young, in the UK and throughout the EU – in Italy, Greece and Spain amongst other countries. Free movement of people has been said to deprive poorer countries within the EU of their most enterprising, who leave to go to the richer nations for a better life. However this is argued to leave already struggling nations without the ‘resource’ (I hate talking about people in this manner) to develop their nations, and with an increased pool of labour that can be paid relatively little (see W) the rich nations within the EU become richer, whilst the gap between the rich and the poor within those nations becomes wider.
In addition creating a continent of essentially migrant workers also needs a larger welfare state to fulfil the roles that an otherwise closer community, with strong family ties for young families, would fulfil. In an era of austerity this may be hauling to some.
Is for the young (les jeunes), said to have been robbed of their future by the elderly (l’ancienne). Those in the 18-24 category voted for Bremain, it is said, in total by 75%. Since the election there have been demonstrations (lemanifestation) to overturn the vote (see P) predominantly attended by the young. It is argued that those with fewer years, who will therefore not have as much time to live through the ramifications, have voted for Brexit.
Is for the zone; euro that is. Despite the assertion that workers rights are protected by the European Union it’s certainly true that the financial crises and its impact on the eurozone has meant that heavy programmes of austerity (l’austérité) has left Greece reeling, and it’s democratically elected government challenged by the EU. In Italy too, as well as France countries have said to be unable to respond to their own needs, caged in the euro network.
I think it’s really important, if we’re going to integrate well, to learn some thing of our new home. So today’s festivities had me swotting up on a little French history. Hope you find something interesting amongst my 20 facts.
Bastille Day has been celebrated since 1790 and became a French National Holiday in 1880. This may seem odd, considering the bloody history that Bastille Day itself sparked, but what is being celebrated is the birth of the Republic (formed in 1792) and the associated concepts of Libert, Equality and Fraternity.
The Bastille itself was built in the 14th Century as a fortress to defen Eastern Paris from an English attack during the 100 years war. However , it was captured by the forces of Henry ‘Band of Brothers’ V, and used as a prison. Following this period it was of course returned to the French.
The Bastille was forced on 14th July , 1789. It contained only seven elderly prisoners; these included four forgers, two ‘lunatics’ and one ‘deviant’ aristocrat.
The aristocrat was not, as one might suppose, the Marquis de Sade. He had been transferred to an insane asylum just prior to he Bastille’s storming. There was high tension due to food shortages in all of France and the military governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, feared that it would be a target for the and had requested reinforcements. The Marquis de Sade had attempted to incite a crowd outside his window in response to this political tension by yelling: “They are massacring the prisoners; you must come and free them.” Hence he had to go!
The prison also did not contain Voltaire, who had previously been an inmate.
Ninety-eight attackers and one defender died in the fighting – the Bastille’s governor, Bernard-René de Launay, was killed and his head displayed around Paris on a spike.
By the summer of 1789 France, ruled by King Louis XVI with his queen Marie Antionette, suffered severe food shortages. In June, the Third Estate, which represented commoners and the lower clergy, declared itself the National Assembly and called for the drafting of a constitution. Louis legalized the National Assembly, but then surrounded Paris with troops and dismissed Jacques Necker, a popular minister of state who had supported reforms.
Mobs began rioting in Paris at the instigation of revolutionary leaders.
De Launay had received a company of Swiss mercenary soldiers on July 7 in response to his request and on July 12 250 barrels of gunpowder were transferred to the Bastille from the Paris Arsenal, which was more vulnerable to attack. De Launay raised its two drawbridges with his men inside the Bastille.
On July 13, mobs stormed the Paris Arsenal and another armory and acquired thousands of muskets.
At dawn on July 14, a great crowd armed with muskets, swords, and various makeshift weapons began to gather around the Bastille.De Launay, having received one delegation of revolutionary leaders, refused to surrender the fortress and its munitions to a second. He promised them he would not open fire on the crowd and showed them that his cannons were not loaded. Instead of calming them a group of men, confident of no retaliation, climbed over the outer wall of the courtyard and lowered drawbridge.
Three hundred revolutionaries rushed in. When the mob outside began trying to lower the second drawbridge, Launay ordered his men to open fire. One hundred rioters were killed or wounded.
However, more and more Parisians were converging on the Bastille. Around 3 p.m., even a company of deserters from the French joined them. The soldiers dragged five cannons into the courtyard and aimed them at the Bastille. Launay surrendered; he and and his men were taken into custody. The gunpowder and cannons were seized, the seven prisoners of the Bastille were freed and De Launey met his fate.
On hearing of the incident the King asked “Is it a revolt?” He was told “No sire, it’s a revolution.”
Joined by four-fifths of the French army and with the weaponry they needed the revolutionaries seized control of Paris and then the French countryside, forcing King Louis XVI to accept a constitutional government.
In 1792, the monarchy was abolished and ‘The Reign of Terror’ ensued in which many aristocrats were executed. Louis and his wife Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine for treason in 1793.
Bastille Day is celebrated in Paris with a military parade on the Champs Elysees called the Bastille Day Military Parade. It ends at the Arc de Triomphe, as this is the monument that honors those who died while fighting for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
Most municipalities in France celebrate Bastille Day beginning with a Mayoral speech. This is often followed by a war memorial wreath-laying as well as fireworks, dances, music and food.
In 2004 British servicemen celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale by taking part in the National Bastille Day Parade in Paris for the first time and some embers have been sent to represent Britain each year.
The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was penned by army engineer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle during the French revolutionary wars in 1792. It reflects the period in history and, like everything, sounds so much prettier in French. To give you a taste of it the first verse and chorus can be translated as;
Let’s go children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody flag is raised! (repeat)
In the countryside, do you hear
The roaring of these fierce soldiers?
They come right to our arms
To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!
Grab your weapons, citizens!
Form your batallions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May impure blood
Water our fields!
After my Art NouFaux stained glass front door and update of the front of the house I’m adding additional details. I absolutely love these signs, as the post shows, and I thought of a way to get a similar look for our house. It’s normal in France to have your name near your door so, even though I already had the iron number on the door, I thought this would be a good solution. It’s sooooo simple. Honestly, one of the easiest crafts I’ve ever done. Here are the simple steps…
Spray paint a picture frame to make it weatherproof
We have a French glass porch, so I’m not expecting the weather to be able to get at this too much. However it always pays to weather proof. Mine started off grey, but I thought it would blend too much with the stone, so I chose black and gold throughout.
Spray front and back. I intend to attach mine and try and seal it to waterproof it from behind, but just to give it a bit of extra protection I think it’s advisable.
Spray paint the wooden backing and glass with mirror bronze paint
As my frame is round I spray painted the insert that goes behind the picture gold too. I didn’t know how see through the colour would be and didn’t want the mirror like shine to be diminished.
I originally thought of doing this with an actual mirror, but then realised there might be accidents outside my house with glare from the sun 🤭 😆. I wouldn’t have been popular in the village!
So this mirrored finish gives the same feel, but without the danger.
Create your design and print it on clear, waterslide decal paper
I used a frame from the graphics fairy and a monogram. There’s obviously no point in my doing a print out for this. Follow the instructions on your packaging, but you can see my how to here for this craft. This is a picture of the image before sealing and the decal clearly stands out from the backing. The mirror image looked super shiny too.
As I’d cut the decal out too small you could just about see the edging in the one above, so I redid it. But, like pinning your hair in a chignon, finding a couple of stray hairs and attempting to make it perfect, it wasn’t to be. I had the decal équivalant of a messy chignon, because it kept puckering. I don’t know why. I tried a couple of more times to no avail. Tant pis!
Seal the image with glossy, acrylic craft varnish
So, on my slightly less satisfactory, final attempt I used this really thick craft varnish to create a waterproof finish and seal the gaps between the glass and the picture edge. Make sure it’s glossy to keep the mirror shine.
On the second image i don’t know if you can see that the letter is slightly raised from the backing giving it a 3D affect. I haven’t put it up yet, but I’ll update you when I do.
Here in our little village the sun is out, the blossom is on the trees and it appears as if people are coming out from their hibernation. At our regular market here on a Tuesday people linger longer to chat, or sit outside the two little bars to share a drink, walks to school are enjoyed in the sunshine. Heaven.
Our youngest daughter is finally speaking consistently. She’s faced an uphill battle that I’ve spoken of before; a life endangering struggle when she was born meant she was fed intravenously, leaving her mouth muscles severely weakened. Added to that our move to France and moves within as well as other changes have also impacted upon her. Her use of English has developed significantly, which is a relief. She speaks a few french words, but understands everything.
I write all this just to let anyone who’s thinking of moving to France, or who’s already moved with young children and is experiencing this, to anticipate that there may be difficulties with very young children and language; but that things do work themselves out.
My own use of French is finally getting better. Twice recently people have commented how much my language has improved. I find myself expressing even my thoughts in English now with the french equivilant. Instead of saying ‘I’m happy about that’ I’ll say ‘I’m content with that’. I’ll automatically say ‘voila’ instead of there you go. The lines between the two worlds are a little more blurry.
Having said that it’s still as if we live in a glass box; you are there but the language and culture barrier limits your capacity to fully engage with what’s going on around you.
Yet I am deepening relationships, meeting people for coffee and having some English people over for dinner. Gradually I’m using ‘tu’ and not ‘vous’ – which is surprisingly hard. We don’t learn french from our parents of course, so swapping to the informal means becoming used to the different tense usage. Sometimes I swap between the two with people and when I realise worry that they’ll think I’m suddenly expressing annoyance. After all it was Josephine’s change to vous that enraged Bonaparte!
It was a battle to join the health system due to difficulties we’ve experienced caused by our accountant. However, when I expressed this to the directrice at the girls school she put me in contact with the mother of some of the pupils who worked in that department. Something which had taken me months of worry and heartache was suddenly resolved. I can not express to you have grateful I am for that.
There have been times, as I’ve spoken of, that this glass box has left me feeling a little isolated and lonely. When you’re an immigrant to a country where you must speak another language it’s hard. Not only have you got to think of how you express something, you have the difficulty of not being certain that the way you are saying it is the correct way in terms of social norms. We’re not aware just how much cultural and social knowledge we accumulate until we step outside.
This Spring showed me just how much has changed. Each year our little village has a vide grenier, a sort of car boot sale. Last year it was on Easter Sunday but, this year’s moon cycle being different, the same early April date didn’t clash with the feast.
A year ago the weather was grey at that time and we knew, well, no one really. The girls had only just started to their school as it was shortly after we’d moved here. The main street had lots of places to buy cooked food and eat outside. As I was alone with the girls I bought us lunch and we had it inside. I expected an early end to the fair, but my eldest kept coming into our bedroom at 9 and 10 o’clock as there was an open air bar and people were enjoying themselves. She found it exhilarating!
This year we were more prepared and, even though my husband was away again, my parents came over the night before to take part. The sun was shining, the village was full of stalls and activities (we only saw a fraction of what was on offer) and there was a party atmosphere throughout.
What really struck me though was how many people we now knew. Every few feet we would stop to greet and exchange kisses with someone, happily chat and move on until another friendly face meant we stopped again.
Our school runs are the same; stop, kiss, chat, stop, kiss, chat….
The last time my husband and I were in Paris was in the Autumn and we stayed by the Seine. This time we stayed close to La Gare Montparnasse. Totally different atmosphere! It felt more like a city than the city of love, but there were some highlights.
We stayed in Hotel M, which was a great hotel. However the location was a little….well, when I saw a couple of sex shops in the area I wasn’t overly surprised. Nevertheless it was full of little theatres and bars and was lively. Having stayed near the Seine and walked along it’s banks last time though the area didn’t have the same impact.
I was waiting for my husband to arrive, as he was coming in from abroad, so I found myself walking the area alone and a lovely little square – a tranquil oasis.
Sat in a café alone people kept asking me what was happening with Brexit. I don’t know and I don’t think anyone else does either was my reply.
The highlight of the visit was la Basilique de Sacré Cœur. We first went there on our first anniversary. There is a group of nuns attached to the Basilica and as they came out to sing and my breath was taken away.
For some reason the ability to get to confession recently had alluded me, so we had headed out at a time I could go. As I sat down waiting I was overwhelmed by the feeling of God’s grace. I felt like the prodigal son, surrounded by his father’s love even before I could get the words of my repentance out.
I sat next to a woman who told me she’d been sat there hoping for the courage to go. It’s the second time I’ve had that kind of conversation. It’s so sad. Confession truly is a gift.
As I waited I prayed for my husband’s conversion. I’m so lucky to have a spouse that supports my faith despite his doubt. I sat with him after receiving absolution and just as I did so the nuns came out again, ready to sing. Such beauty.
This is a post from an old blog that I thought I’d repost here today. Enjoy!
When we arrived in France last August I was determined to increase my language skills. I thought that this wouldn’t be too hard being the mother of two young girls; surely there would be lots of opportunities to get together with other mothers and talk?
Nope, pas du tout.
I’ve since realised that the opportunities to do this in France are quite different to those in England. But I’ll go into that at another time.
So, I decided what better way to expose yourself to the language than to put yourself on the back of a huge animal, attempt to control it and try and listen to subject specific language at the same time. Yes, that’s the level of stupid I’m at sometimes.
This all started last year when it was La Belle Fille’s birthday. We didn’t know many people at the time and as we where staying in our friends gite I didn’t want to invite lots of kids round to our for a party. So I set her up with a horse riding lesson.
I’m so ignorant of the activity that I didn’t know that there’s actually an English style and a western style. So when driving past a sign saying that there was a pony club and the word ‘Anglais’ I stupidly thought that the option of the English language was available. Yes, again, that’s the level of stupid I’m at sometimes. Really.
I’d gone and arranged the lessons for myself on Thursday nights and La Belle Fridays. I thought this would give me the opportunity to experience it so I could talk it through with her first and allay any of her fears.
On my first day I didn’t realise that you were meant to arrive early to groom the horse, so everything was rushed, particularly as I didn’t have the necessary helmet etc (I was able to borrow one there). This is the difficulty in experiencing things for the first time in another language when you haven’t achieved a high level of fluency. Normally I would have gone somewhere to arrange lessons and been able to think of questions to ask; what do I wear for my first few lessons? What time should I get there? All those relevant things. However when your speaking in your second language you’re concentrating so hard on working out what the other person is saying that you forget everything else.
My first experience on a horse though was marvellous. I literally didn’t stop giggling like a fool throughout. It was exhilarating, and makes all the language difficulties worth while.
My instructor, Céline, finds it very amusing at times that she has an English woman in her class (much my parish priest when I was arranging La Petite’s baptism). I often hear her talking to other students or people in front of me. “All I can say in English is “go” or “stop”, but she says she understand!” I actually find these conversations she has pretty funny; I don’t know if she realises I understand what she’s saying.
She is very patient, repeating the same instructions again and again. I really appreciate that this adds a layer of complexity to the proceedings both for her and other members of the class and she’s born them with good grace throughout.
It was my language skills that created a situation within the class that was a little uncomfortable in fact. When I’d first started to ride they gave me a very docile horse, Teene, who is given to all new riders. However, she doesn’t want to trot. Great in some ways for a beginner, you can be confident that even in the training circle she’s not going to race off and cause a new rider a fright. But trying to get a horse who doesn’t want to go to do so, whilst you’re developing your language skills is hard. Each time Céline gave me an instruction I was having to translate it, whilst at the same time trying to get an animal to do what it didn’t want to do and then do what she was asking me to do.
In this occasion instructions were again being repeated over and over again and then a conversation ensued between Céline and some observers as well as other members of the class. Again Céline was saying, in a jovial way, what it was like dealing with someone who was English. Then she said that she didn’t speak a lot of English again, but this time one of the other learners said in French that she thought it was up to the people coming to live in France to learn the language. Two other members of the class became obviously uncomfortable whilst this conversation continued and, to be honest, so was I.
I had asked the same woman a few weeks before, on my second week actually, for help to put a saddle on (it’s quite complicated and you don’t get it first time). She had become a little brisk and when I’d said that she was very kind to help she’d replied “oui, trop gentil je pense” (yes, too kind I think) and had seemed put out.
When she’d said this recent comment she’d sounded quite stern to my ears, but to be honest I have misread the situation.
After the class my instructrice first asked in front of everyone if I understood and I’d said yes, but I was having to translate, then do the action and make the horse go which was difficult.
Then, as I was unsaddling the horse, one of the other women struck up a conversation with me about something in French, all my conversations at the stables are in French, and then added that her English wasn’t very good. I replied to her that I wanted to improve my French, but that it was ok as I did understand her. I again explained about having to translate and then do the action, as I’d been a little upset by the previous comments as I didn’t want people to think that I’d come to France without bothering to learn the language. Anyway we continued to have a conversation for about ten to fifteen minutes all in French and I think the other woman heard. The next time we met she was extremely helpful and seemed to my eyes a little uncomfortable.
The thing is, although I was put out at the time, I think that people who haven’t learnt a second language and then attempted to function in it outisde of a classroom don’t know what it’s like and their expectations are therefore too unrealistic. For example, sometimes when things feel rushed and i don’t know what I’m doing I get flustered and lose my language skills. If you’re not a language learner you may not recognise this.
I remember years ago I was in a Wilkinson when a shop assistant had told three cashiers the story of some Polish people who had been locked in the store the night before – they’d been in the paint aisle and hadn’t heard the announcement. She finished each telling with the (very) loud declaration “Well, if they want to come to this country they should learn the language shouldn’t they?”
I was so annoyed listening to this as I’d already started learning French to move here and on my many visits had found it frustrating no matter how hard I tried. I still wish I’d said what I’d been thinking; “Don’t you know what it’s like to learn a second language? They probably have learnt it, but as they’re concentrating on labels they missed the announcement over head.”
Uncomfortable situations aside the lessons have really helped to get me out and about and practise my language skills, but it is up to me to focus on subject specific vocabulary to make myself more able to participate. In defence of my classmate my difficulties sometimes means that there is an extra focus in the class and, if I start another new activity in the future, I’ll be sure to read up on it English first to give me some context and try to learn some key vocabulary. After all, she was right. It is my responsibility to learn; I agreed with her even as she was saying it (hence my being upset).
For any of you out there crazy enough to want to give it a go I’ve made these key word posters to go up our staircase for La Petite and I, you can download them here Horse Vocabulary.