Parlez-vous français? Alas, non...

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Like most people with a people carrier and mortgage, my school days are way behind me.

For the most part they were enjoyable enough, but not so much that I would swap middle-aged drudgery for zits and the smell of Lynx and live it all again.

School was fun, but academic endeavour and I were never serious bedfellows – my motto in the classroom was ‘the bare minimum will do’.

And it did do me just fine on the whole: I passed all those exams considered to be essential and found myself in my chosen career before the sun had set on my teenage years.

And that is where I left my school years – in the dim and distant past.

But there are the very few occasions when I look back on those days with more than a hint of regret, sometimes wishing that I had paid a little more attention than I did.

In fact, that is how I am feeling right now, as I sit here nibbling on a baguette while enjoying the view from our mobile home of the opposite side of the Channel.

But it is times like these that my shortcomings as a student are truly exposed as I blunder my way through Normandy trying to order lunch without being laughed at.

My main problem is that French classes and I were totally incompatible, largely due to the fact that I was extremely fond of playing Le Goat. My raison d’etre was to make my chums laugh and I achieved that by adopting the most ridiculous accent possible – think Arthur Bostrom in ‘Allo ‘Allo. I cared not a jot about how to ask for a ripe pineapple or what number bus went to Rouen. Oh how I regret the folly of youth.

I would love to be able to walk into a patisserie without making a right pomme tart of myself, but I am paying for those rash decisions taken in a soulless modern languages studio some 25 years ago.

This past week has reinforced the importance of teaching our kids languages, especially as our nine-year-old is struggling to cope with how her European playmates all seem to at least have a good grasp of English.

She starts French lessons when she goes back to school and I hope she pays more attention than her dad ever did.