Sometimes I am aware that Tricky is trying to tell me something very very important. He knits his brows and looks deep into my eyes and sighs heavily and says uttttah uttah petakah bedagah.
And because I am trying to encourage his speech and communication I smile brightly and nod as if I know exactly what he is saying. Miraculously, every now and then I actually do understand what he’s saying.
“Water! You want a drink of water?”
“Biscuit! You want me to get you a biscuit?”
“Poo poo? Go to your father.”
It’s as if he has an entire language all his own, of which I know a few basic nouns, and frankly it’s like living in France again.
At that time I only knew enough of the language to apologise for not knowing more. I did try, honestly. I went to French classes and practiced as much as I could but I found a weird thing happened. The more French I started to learn, the less English I was capable of writing down on paper. And given that the reason C and I were in Paris in the first place was because I had received a 6 month writers' residency to write a play…c’est la vie.
At least that’s the main reason. The other reason was because I kept getting myself into trouble.
Very early on in the residency I bought some gingerbread at a market near Versaille and began one of my usual friendly but retarded French conversations with a very patient stall holder.
Hello! I enthused in that most romantic of languages. I am Australian! I am a writer!
Patient Stall Holder smiled gently and welcomed me to his country. I gleefully held up one of his home baked cakes.
I would like one spice cake, please! You cook your house?
Patient Stall Holder nodded and smiled. He explained that the gingerbread contains farine…
Ooh yes! Flour! I know flour!
Also it contains miel…
Honey! Good! Very good! Thankyou!
…and some epice…
Spice! Yes! It is the bread of spice! He was delicious!
Then, perhaps tiring of my enthusiastic but repetitive shouting aloud of his ingredients, the Patient Stall Holder diverted from his list of nouns and tried to explain something very important to me about this bread of spice that was cooked in his house. Something essential to my enjoyment and understanding of the gourmet treat I held in my two hands.
My smile froze and I stared at his lips, concentrating hard, as he repeated what he said, again and again. Finally, disappointed, I shook my head. No, I couldn’t understand, he was using things like grammar and also, I suspected, words that were not nouns.
I'm sorry. I am Australian. I speak only a green pea the French.
He tried again, slower this time and I recognised a couple of words. I realised he was saying that the gingerbread was made “without” something. Something... that is often contained in your regular supermarket bought, non-house made bread of spice. It was natural, so it was without…
A light went off in my head.
Sans preservatif! I shouted triumphantly.
There followed one of those rare moments of communication between two people who cannot speak the other’s language, yet have managed to connect through compassion, through humanity, and through a shared love of the bread of spice. Sadly that was also the moment that I realised I had loudly told the Patient Stall Holder and all his nearby customers that his gingerbread was made “without condoms.”
Luckily, with Tricky, we are still up to button, star, car and cracker. We're yet to discuss contraception or indeed its place in any of our baked goods.
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