DERNIER MOT - THEY ALL LAUGHED AT...
For some reason, the French find me funny. The mere sight of me makes my neighbours curl up laughing. I don't know why. I did ask Marie-France once but even she just sniggered.
For example, I was taking Bella out for her morning constitutional when I spotted two old boys sitting on a bench by the church stroking their moustaches.
"Here comes Saman-ta!" shouted Jacques.
"Now we'll have a laugh!" replied Jean, even louder.
"Comment elle va, Saman-ta?" yelled Jacques at top volume, apparently unaware that I along with the whole of the Languedoc had overheard his previous remark. "Elle a la pêche?"
"I'm walking the dog," I said. "Just down to the bins and back."
"Ha ha ha! Got any melons!" screamed Jacques and both he and Jean were doubled up.
Now why was that funny? I'm at loss to explain it. Totally at a loss. Even Bella doesn't have a clue. The same thing happened at the centre equestre when they appealed for help clearing an overgrown field.
"I'll give you a hand," I said enthusiastically - and they all burst out laughing.
"It was because you were wearing a pink ra-ra skirt," explained the Junior Members patiently. "You didn't look like a country person."
"But I'm practical. I build dry stone walls. I lay bricks. I plaster."
"Yes, but you don't look it. You look..."
"English, Mum. You just look English. That and your face, I guess. You know, your face is pretty weird too..."
Cheeky monkeys. There's nothing wrong with my face. It's not funny enough to result in mass hysteria the instant I open my mouth, anyway.
And it can't be my French. I mean, when we first arrived it was understandable. I used to spend whole days in Bricotruc asking for electrical strings and electrical-string-junctions - until finally the manager had the smart idea of producing some pictures of wires and sockets and switches for me to point at...
But these days I pride myself on my French. I haven't done ten years' worth of primary homework for nothing. So the cause of the mirth can't be merely linguistic gaffs. En plus, I'm totally integrated. I've gone native, in fact. This is the south of France, so I wear pink flip-flops all year round. And I got my pink frocks from InterMarché. Where's the joke?
On the other hand, being a laughing stock has some advantages. For example, I can complain and no-one takes the least offence.
"Look here!" I said, striding into SuperU. "Look at this bendy hammer you sold me last week. What am I supposed to do with this?"
Naturally they all fell about.
"It's not funny. I've got things poking up everywhere because of this bendy tool," I continued severely. "Thoroughly substandard that's what I call it and I want a replacement. Now. And don't palm me off with any more of your horrible squishy nuts, either. What do you think I am? Some sort of millionaire? I can't afford to be buying bendy hammers every two days!"
Were they annoyed? Not at all. When I leaned over the counter I saw them all hiding - folded up with their hands over their mouths - and I know the tears pouring down their cheeks were mirth rather than remorse.
But did I get my bendy hammer replaced? You bet. They could hardly snatch a breath they were in such tucks of merriment, but I sailed out of the place triumphantly waving a brand new replacement hammer.
So who's got the last laugh now?
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