A new project

Since my little man was born, my life has revolved around him, which to my mind is a good thing.  I want to be the best possible parent I can be and nurture and raise a confident, sociable, outgoing, thinking, caring person.  And I think I’m doing a good job so far.  But the little chap starts school in September and is becoming more and more independent every day.  Soon he will be somewhere else for a good part of the day and he won’t need my time during those hours.  So I’ve been thinking for a while now about what I’m going to do with all that time that I will suddenly have to myself.  There is huge potential for just aimlessly drifting and I’m keen to avoid that situation.  As we all know, if you aim for nothing you will hit it every time and apart from having our little chap, which was a major achievement in itself for all sorts of reasons, I feel as if I haven’t achieved a single thing since then.  I know this isn’t strictly true, because raising small children involves learning new skills and tricks every day, not to mention gaining little insights into traits, strengths and capabilities.  But that’s been for him; I haven’t achieved anything tangible for me.

So last September I hooked up with Kate on Thin Ice, who’d begun a blog hop to help her sort out her own life and generate more meaning and purpose.  I found some of the ideas and suggestions to be very useful and began making my own small changes.  I began a course in Italian at evening class, signed up to a few inspirational blogs, joined a book group and began taking my health and fitness a little more seriously.  Sadly I didn’t manage to get to all the Italian classes and I miss a few book group meetups, but as one of my friends said, for several years my attention was all on my little chap but now he’s past the baby stage my attention is only just turning back to the wider world again.  As these were my first tentative steps back into that wider world, I don’t think I’ve done too badly.  And as Kate says, even little steps in the right direction all help to make a change.  But now I think I need to make more radical changes to my life.

So here is my new project.  I’m going to learn the French language, and everything I can about French lifestyle and culture.  The reasons for this are several.  My little chap is learning French and I don’t want there to be a time where he is better than me and I don’t know what he’s talking about.  I took the O level at school and I was actually quite good at it myself at that age.  I’ve never taken it any further until now because it seems that French is everyone’s first choice and I didn’t want to be doing what everyone else was doing.  But I’ve got over that feeling and Mandarin or Russian are now popular choices too, so I don’t feel so much like I’m following the herd.  Also I’ve never continued it because I’ve found some French people to be quite disdainful of foreigners’ attempts to mangle their language, whereas the Italians or Greeks, for example, are a little more forgiving and are happy that you are at least trying it.  I had a bad experience at the Eurostar station in Lille once (where there must be many, many tourists, not just English ones).  I’ve also come to understand that I do like my Gold Stars for Effort (thank you Gretchen Rubin for that insight) and I was making a big effort on that occasion and receiving zero recognition for it.  But then I thought about how some Londoners can be quite disdainful of visitors to our city who struggle to make themselves understood, and having lived in London and the South East for many years, I’m now quite used to being on the receiving end of a bit of disdain myself.  But I seem to have grown a thicker skin all round in recent years, and what the heck, if you can’t beat them, join them!  I’m going to learn their language and I don’t care how bad they consider my accent to be!

So in future weeks, I’m aiming to write some blog posts related to all things French.  It will be virtual exploration, hopefully with a bit of real intrepid travel thrown in so that I can practice my new skills.  We are only around 4 hours from Paris here (not taking into account time differences), from my front door to stepping off the Eurostar train.  Lille is only 3 ½ hours away.  Even by ferry we are only just over 3 hours away from the French coast, so it seems almost rude not to take greater advantage of that.

If anyone has any pointers for me or details of anything they think might be interesting, do let me know.  Let’s see what occurs!  Bon voyage.

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20 Responses to A new project

  1. Zazzy says:

    I tried to learn a little French once but did not go about it in any organized way. A friend of mine wrote me a little dialog that I’m sure will be very helpful for you.

    Où sont mes vaches?
    Les vaches sont dans la maison.
    Oui? Et les autres vaches?
    Les autres vaches sont dans votre maison.

  2. Zazzy says:

    Oh – and I think it’s a grand idea by the way. Good luck to you and I look forward to reading about what you’ve learned.

  3. The very best of luck Polly, you seem super determined so I am sure you are going to succeed. It is a wonderful thing to learn another language and absorb yourself in another culture, and not only will it give you the focus and activity that you need, but it will benefit the whole family. I think by aiming to learn all about the culture and country in addition to the language will help massively. Go you!

  4. Ally Bean says:

    Two books that I’ve read about French culture are: Almost French by Sarah Turnbull & Entre Nous by Debra Ollivier. I enjoyed both of them. Quietly funny + insightful.

    Good luck in your studies. French is a language that confuses me, but charms me at the same time. I’m sure that with your natural aptitude for it, you’ll do great.

    • Ally, I’ve read Almost French and I loved it (am about to re-read it) and Entre Nous is now on my list of things to order, thanks for the recommendation. So looking forward to this!

  5. Great to see you back Polly and with a mission to boot. I certainly was guilty of drifting aimlessly when my youngest child went to school. As you know, I get loads out of Groovy Mums myself and baby steps do push you forwards.
    I like you so much, that idea of you wanting to be different appeals to me.
    So what is French for “groovy”?
    And when are we all going to France?
    Lovely upbeat post

    • Thanks Kate. As I said in the post, it’s largely due to stumbling across Groovymums in its infancy that I’m where I am now. Baby steps do indeed push you forward. We’re all going to France when I can speak the language. Put it in your diary. Px

  6. Claire says:

    Sounds fabulous. What a great project to get your teeth into. Culturally, I’d love to know more about some of France’s hidden gems in terms of places to visit. I once read a novel set in Carcassonne, and I thought it sounded a fascinating place to visit. I like the sound of Provence too. When I was at school I loved learning the french words for different foods. I remember those the most. Good luck with it – I am sure you will embrace it with gusto. Great that you have something on the horizon to look forward to in Sept too. x

    • Thanks Claire. Can you remember the name of the novel? I like that you remember the words for foods the most! I seeem to remember the words associated with holidays and travel, also I seem to remember my favourite word was boulangerie :-) Px

      • Claire says:

        Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. The descriptions of the medieval town really made me want to go there.
        As for the food thing – what does that say about me? I remember being very chuffed on a romantic break to Paris when I asked for some confiture to go with my croissant one morning. The pronunciation was probably appalling but I got what I wanted!

        • Claire, you are now the second person today to recommend Labyrinth. One of my friends is going to lend it to me. She’s visiting Carcassonne next week, too; she felt the same way about the town after reading the book. Well done on getting la confiture! You must have been very clear.

  7. Hey Polly – What a great project! I think thats a great focus and very cleverly aligned with your son’s development too. Your passion really came across and I get the clear impression you cant wait to dive in. I love the French language although I wasn’t that great at school. Are you still continuing your Italian classes and the writing course? Really looking forward to your cultural posts – any chance you will write about your favourite parts of France? I love the French countryside!

    • Hi Sarah, not continuing with Italian this year, I think, although I’ll keep up with the writing course. I just think two languages in one year is going to confuse me (doesn’t take much these days!). I will certainly write about any places we visit – including Disneyland, which we just got back from. Although its an American concept, French was everywhere and we got a lot of opportunity to practise. Would love to know where you have visited – any recommendations? Px

  8. I have the same thoughts about what to do once little one starts school its scary trying to find your feet again after being sahm. Its great that you already have ideas and are putting things in place,it sounds really interesting great stuff xx

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think there are so many of us all feeling very similarly. You are right it does sometimes feel quite scary. Great to know we’re not alone!

  9. Brona says:

    You might like to check out this blog I found recently that is running a French meme
    http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/06/14/i-love-france-22-pere-lachaise-cemetery/

    • Brona, thank you for this recommendation. I love the site and have signed up to it. Would like to sign up to yours too, by email, but can’t see anywhere to do that – can you help? Thanks again. Polly