Je me cache, tu te caches, elle se cache …

August 9, 2009

I really did mean to blog yesterday but things overtook us, not least of all having real-life visitors.

We haven’t seen this couple for about a year, we worked out once they arrived (is it just us, or do all people over 30 start a conversation with a friend by trying to work out the last time they met?) In other words, Piaf was about six months old and has changed a lot, so, even after she had gone to bed fashionably early at 7.30pm, she got talked about a lot.

I can’t remember how it came up, but it soon transpired that they had no recollection of Piaf being bilingual. To me, that seems a big thing to forget. They, too, seemed to think it was something they would definitely have remembered. And yet, at six months, the whole set-up was well embedded, a few early hurdles had been overcome, and I was starting to get into my stride.

And yet. If I am honest, for a long time after making my decision, I still found it embarrassing and feared being judged. I know for a fact that, very occasional blurted oaths aside, I have never reneged on my rule to speak only French to my daughter. But what I know I did do sometimes, in those early days (not now, thank heavens), is not speak to her at all in the company of others, or else speak so low that no one would catch us using French. Perhaps I imagined that, if they caught me, my friends and extended family would hang a thick wooden peg round my neck and then beat me at the end of the day, the way they used to punish Breton and Irish kids for speaking the home language in schools.

The dinner guests continued their reminiscence. “You did take her out of the restaurant for a long walk at one point.” Doubtless it was then that, anonymous among strangers on the South Bank, I filled her head with sounds from a forbidden tongue.

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