Episode 11


tardis-round


The organizer of Doctor Who events in Derby, Stephen Hatcher, is a teacher of foreign languages and I moaned to him about my inability to speak and read French well. Some of my favourite writers are French – Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Proust, Cocteau, Genet – and I prefer French mystery writers like Simenon and Leo Malet to English, but I can’t read them in the original. I said a sentence or two to Stephen – “Avez vous un chambre avec salle de bain?” and he praised my accent. I am sure my accent is okay. In Italy I once spoke a few sentences to a Venetian tour guide, who embarked on a long discourse in her native language, assuming I was fluent, though I had used up all my knowledge.

I have been going through papers at my late father’s house, hundreds of them across all periods of my life, and a few days after speaking to Stephen Hatcher I came across a stab at a French essay, written when I was thirteen or so, which I reproduce below. The words and fragments in brackets were struck out in the original.

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1. A Memorable event

Tom Baker est un tres bien acteur, et il travaillé en le series “Docteur Qui”. Aussi, ma tante travaille pour le BBC. (Elle in in) Elle m’invité á (la) les studios rencontre Tom.
(J’arri J’ai) Je suis arrive á (six) trois heur et demi. Tom et ma tante (m) ont me vu. (Je) (Je suis) (je suis) (allé va) J’ai été aller autour les (studious) studios de “Docteur Qui”. Le seriés “Softly Softly” (é) (as) (été) (fai) est aussi être fais dans les studio(u)s.
Il était neuf heures et demi quand nous (avons) sommes allé (de) (de) d’apres les studios. Le train (je suis) j’ai été prise le train me prendre à (la) ma ville.

2. Future Plans

je desire étre un actuer dans la future. Il est tres difficule representer, pace que (le) la competition est ne petit pas. Mais, filles ont tres beaucoup plus commun que garcons.
Il y a un tres grand montant (de) d’acteurs (qui) de (nemoi) renommée pas, mais un sombre vie.
Mon frère est un acteur, et il est (sur le) sans travaille. Mais il était employé pour trois (mon) mois à noel. Il est tres heureux. Pour les raisons (j’ai) je mentionné, je desire être un acteur en (pour) ma (p) vie.

3. Hobbies and pastimes

Dans (man) ma passtemps, j’aimé ecrire et aussi j’aimé dessin. Je tire des magazines, et (je) j’ecrire histories en (sujets) beaucoup sujets. Pour example, j’ai criété le “Robo-Man” et les ennemies, “Crusher,” “Collosus,” (“Blackburn Morbius”) “Phantom” nommer mais trois de la varieté des ennemies.
Aussi, j’aime representér dans (man) ma passtemps. Bientot, j’ai faire “The Browning Version.”
Je rais à les classes de drame, et, pour les examines, (je) j’obteni les distinctions.

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Ten out of ten, Stephen?
It is true I had an Aunt who worked at the BBC but the meeting with that ‘bien acteur’ is fictional. My older brother really was an actor for a while. I did create a superhero called Roboman. He looked a bit like Spiderman but robotic. I only ever designed a single cover and wrote half a story before becoming bored with him. I have no clue what I meant by ‘Blackburn Morbius’ but he/she/it sounds kind of interesting.
I was indeed in an am-dram production of Rattigan’s “The Browning Version.”

Once during practice for oral French my teacher asked me what my favourite TV programme was and I said Docteur Qui. She then asked me to describe it. Docteur Qui is difficult enough to explain in English and I’m afraid my sparse French didn’t suffice. She suggested if asked this question during the exam I should tell a white lie and pick something simpler. I chose Roobarb and Custard, a cartoon about a chat et un chien, which seemed more straightforward, but it didn’t help because I failed oral French anyway.