Lucky ducks

I found myself sweeping the street outside the cottage today. A worrying discovery, I can tell you, and a sure sign that it’s time to get a grip. Those of you who are studying, or on a deadline, will recognise the syndrome – the ANYTHING-is-more-appealing-than-actually-doing-the-work phase. Although in my case it’s more a way of life than a phase.

The exercise wasn’t entirely wasted, mind you. Apart from earning approving glances from local passers-by I also managed to make friends with my neighbour, Lily, who stopped to discuss the weather. Lily is a lovely lady who, it turns out, would like to learn English. So..we’ve struck a deal, trading English lessons for French lessons. I’m so pleased because I’m finding it very difficult getting to the level that comes after ordering a drink/meal/baguette. The actual conversation level.

Sorry but I must just break up this thread because I am sitting at the seafront watching those poor soldiers at their daily exercises/torture and I just have to try to share the sight with you. At least 10 of them either have been thrown off or jumped off the back of a speeding boat straight into the boat’s angrily churning wake. One by one they have landed in the freezing foam, each one swiftly followed by a flying kayak, also chucked off the boat’s back (aft, port, whatever). They are now bobbing about in the water manfully trying to clamber into a kayak each before paddling off towards the harbour in a frenzy of flashing oars. I feel I should really be standing there with warm towels and a hot drink to welcome them. Or perhaps I might set up a sanctuary for suffering soldiers in the cottage?

Anyway, I digress. The whole learning French thing is fast becoming a priority. My trip to Toulouse at the weekend was wonderful, but it did make me more conscious of my failings in that area. Sarah, a friend who has been living in Toulouse for about 2 months now and taking daily lessons, left me standing. I know a lot of nouns and a few verbs but I gather it’s the in-between bits that make a sentence.

Toulouse, by the way, is a beautiful city and I will definitely be returning (sorry, no pics this time, check out the link at the side). Stunning buildings, a square at the end of most streets and shopping to rival Paris. The main square houses Le Capitole, the most beautiful town hall I’ve seen, and brings to mind St Mark’s Square in Venice. Student life, café society, river walks and ambience by the bucketful. It’s all there.

On top of all that I got to have dinner and see the sights with Sarah, her friend Jo, and two special friends Emilie and Eadaoin, who had come over from Dublin for the weekend. A beautiful meal (from a menu featuring more duck than the average pond) was had in an atmospheric restaurant. We toasted the exciting events filling each of our lives. Eadaoin is beautifully pregnant with her second child and is about to move into a new home with son Art and husband Niall. Emilie has just delivered her book to the publishers, has been awarded a Fulbright and is moving to Lisbon for a month in the summer. And Sarah and Jo can now speak French and are planning to live in Toulouse for quite a while (if Sarah can just make her mind up about the studio apartment!).

Les Girls in Toulouse

Emilie, Sarah, Jo and Eadaoin. Les girls in Toulouse.

It was a joyful night and I drove back to Collioure with the top (of my car!) down and the sun beaming upon my ample cheeks. Only to be met by….tourists! Truckloads of them! I don’t know what came over me but I felt quite annoyed at their presence. I wandered around muttering ‘shoo!’ in my head, as if they were so many ducks that on my whim would just waddle back to their trucks and possibly end up on a restaurant table in Toulouse.

I really need to get a grip.

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