My “about” page on here says that I wear many hats – no understatement I might add.
One of them is that of a teacher.
In a former life I taught Spanish at the University of Wales, and somehow that has morphed into teaching English here for the local Chambre de Commerce. I even get to teach the odd hour or two of Spanish from time to time as well.
I have been doing this for about three years now, and whilst on a (very) part-time basis, it is something that I enjoy very much.
My reasons are simple:
Firstly it allows me to further my understanding of how things work in our area and in France in general.
Secondly, each and every one of my students has been an absolute delight to teach.
It is through them that I have come to appreciate the gentle nuances of French Country Life.
I am ever aware that some of the expat community can be somewhat harsh about the quieter lifestyle that the French live in these parts.
Unkind references to “doing nothing other than sitting around the table eating” is a common criticism.
Underestimate the richness of a Frenchman’s life at your peril.
Take Bernard my student who I taught this afternoon.
He is a modest – living man who eats out rarely, has a small family home and a job that he has done for most of his working life. He is not far off retirement and likes to spend his leisure time in his potager.
He has not set any land speed records, saved any lives or visited exotic places – in fact, he has never left his native France.
For those of you yawning at the back, don’t fret: He is enjoying a full and enriching existence.
Let me elaborate.
Part of our two-hour session is to talk of the previous weeks’ events, so I started this afternoon with a question on how he spent the bank holiday weekend.
Admittedly he did work in the garden for one of his three days. However here is how he spent the other two.
He went to Poitiers on Saturday with his wife to help his niece set up in her new flat. I asked him if any other family members were there, notably her parents. He said not and explained that his brother lived a long way from Poitiers and that he did not enjoy the best of health. He therefore took it upon himself to put up curtain poles, light fittings and all the multitude of jobs that go hand in hand with moving house.
Most commendable I hear you say. Quite so, and most us would reckon on him putting his feet up on Sunday. A well deserved rest. Not so.
Instead he decided to organise a family picnic at the nearby flying club in Thouars.
He had arranged for his nephew to fly from Rennes in his two-seater plane, and give himself, his wife and his eighty-one year old mum a maiden flight.
Ever the gentleman he smiled when he said he let the ladies go first so he had ample chance to mentally prepare for the ride. He said that his nephew was careful not to be too adventurous with the female passengers, although his flight was quite a different affair.
All three had a wonderful experience and he has new learned two new expressions in English, which are:
1. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity
2. A white knuckle ride
It most certainly was, and the afternoon was crowned off with a picnic on the side of the runway.
So fear not. We may see many of our French neighbours and friends enjoying long leisurely lunches en famille during the warmer days to come, but never ever think that is all they get up to.
Getting along with things quietly is what they are best at, and enjoying it at the same time.
Good for them!