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Marlene has been teaching English in the French School System for several years. It has been challenging and interesting, and she has had contact with many hundreds of young French and foreign children from the surrounding villages and towns.

Marlene has been teaching English in the French School System for several years. It has been challenging and interesting, and she has had contact with many hundreds of young French and foreign children from the surrounding villages and towns.

Until two years ago she was working for the French Academy, but in the last few years the number of English speaking assistants or “Intervenantes Extérieures” has been reduced in an economy drive which has seen the reduction of English lessons and the importance of English in the French education system.

I find this curious as, if it were not for the English Speaking Peoples of the World, the National language of France would have been German. But I suppose that memories are short and that the world moves on.

So now Marlene works as a “Formateur Vacataire” or as an “Animatrice en Langue Vivantes” depending at which school she working. This has involved jumping through many hoops and over many obstacles and the end result is that her children are learning to say “THe caT saT on THe maT” rather than “Zer Ca’ Sa’ on zer Ma’ ”.

Her pupils have all done so well when they move onto college compared to their peers that she has now been retained by a Private School that used to be a Catholic School but now seems to have only a small Catholic influence. Here she has 200 pupils each week that she has to manage in a mere two days. As you can imagine it is exhausting but she enjoys the teaching and the children, and knows and remembers them all.

For me it is also rewarding, because Marlene has 200 grandchildren with whom to interact, and I don’t have to remember a single name or a single birthday!

However, a month ago disaster struck.

Fifteen were kidnapped.

It happened during the lunch break which, for those of you who are not familiar with France, is a two hour suspension of activity during which food, wine and friends come before any National Catastrophe or Emergency.

It was a bitter blow.

These were all little friends who had participated in the classes of the children and had been active in their lessons. They all had names and sometimes were even allowed to “sleep over” with certain children who had performed well in class, or who had tried hard.

Teddy Bears

Of course, I must mention, they were Teddy Bears.

Marlene had collected them from “boot-sales” over the last several years and they were all friends. Some of them were from one family, as they were identical. Every time I saw a stranger in the house I would ask Marlene, “Where did this come from?”

She would reply, “Oh THAT one, I’ve had him for YEARS!” or “Oh, Janine gave me that one for my birthday!” or “I found him in the Attic!”

I couldn’t argue, because they all look the same to me. Like other peoples’ children.

The children at school are bereft. Now their little companions with whom they conversed in “Eengleesh” and learned to say “Ow R U?” are gone.

Of course there is a suspect.

His name is Dylan. He has been suspected of stealing sweets, pencils, toys and now Teddy Bears. He is also suspected of being involved with the theft of a mobile phone, which was found later, missing its Sim Card (whatever that is). The only Dillon I can think of is Marshall Dillon of Hollywood fame, so I don’t know who he is named after, but I suspect that he is training to be a future French Great Train Robber, or perhaps just a Politician or a Banker.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, so they say.

It means that Marlene now has a reason to go to all the local Flea Markets, or “Puces” to find replacement Teddy Bears.

Flea Market

There are almost always Teddy Bears on sale, from 50 centimes to sometimes a heady price of two euros. Marlene loves them all, even the ones with eyes dangling on their cheeks or ones with threadbare noses where they have been rubbed and worn out with love and cuddles. There are ones with cockeyed hats and buttonless waistcoats. It doesn’t matter, they will all be gathered in to the Teddy Bear basket, brought home and given love.

So now I am condemned to driving around with Marlene on Sunday mornings to local villages, with a mission. In the past I used to take her on the motorbike, in a vain attempt to limit her purchases, but that didn’t work, as by lunchtime we would be riding home balancing a hall mirror and a standard lamp on the pillion.

Later I tried limiting the purchases by using the little sports car, but that didn’t work either, because there was always something irresistible, like a Louis Fourteen hand-carved dining room chair with a tooled leather seat, a little fragile, but worth ten euros. Occasionally I have also been tempted by a wagon wheel or some antique tools for décor in the Old Forge.

So now it seems that I shall have to use the large car, perhaps with a trailer.

I wonder, do I need to get a special permit to transport Teddy Bears across “Frontières Départemental”?